What is GitHub? Version control at a glance

Version control programs allow you to maintain an overview even in very large projects. All changes to the code are logged by the software. In this way, it is possible to return to previous versions of the project if necessary. Working in a team is also made much easier. GitHub is probably the most well-known version control program out there. Here you can find out what GitHub is exactly and what advantages the application offers you.

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GitHub the market leader

If you deal with version control software, GitHub is one of the first programs you will stumble upon. But what is GitHub exactly? Since 2008, the web application has offered users worldwide the ability to manage development processes of system and application software.

Over 65 million users ensure that GitHub has a near monopoly among the various version control systems on the market. In 2018, GitHub was bought by the Microsoft company for over $7 billion. Since 2020, the network-based service has also offered a smartphone app for the two popular operating systems iOS and Android, which allows you to access your projects and their current status from anywhere.

The principle behind GitHub - A quick look at Git

While GitHub is just an extremely popular web application used by programmers especially for efficient collaboration as well as versioning their software, the underlying program Git is a local software that is primarily for individual use. Git is free open source software, which means that the source code is available to the public. Since the development of Git in 2005, in which the Linux developer Linus Torvalds was involved among others, the program has established itself as the leading software for version control.

Fact

Version control is an approach to recording changes to projects. By means of version control it is possible to keep track of different stages of development and to revert to previous versions if necessary. Thus, the process towards finished code is not only ordered, but often shortened.

How does version control work with GitHub?

The primary task of version control software is to log developments on various programming projects. Such projects include application software, as well as web development. Any change to the code can be uploaded to a cloud and saved as a separate version using GitHub, which is conveniently already integrated in most development environments.

Thus, a GitHub project contains different versions of the same code. On the one hand, this allows you to track the development process of your projects. On the other hand, GitHub allows you to revert to earlier versions of your code at any time, which is particularly advantageous if bugs have crept into your project.

In addition to the different versions available, efficient teamwork is one of the main reasons for using GitHub in development. Each team member can download the current version of the code as their own repository, or repo for short. If you copy a repository to your own GitHub account, this process is also called fork.

A repo in turn consists of different branches. The main project is usually located in the branch master. By creating branches, parts of the code split off and can be worked on simultaneously by individual developers. This way, each employee can take care of a separate part of the code.

If you want to merge the code again afterwards, GitHub provides the merge command. A request is sent to the user who owns the original project on GitHub. If the changes are to be adopted, the code is subsequently merged.

GitHub in comparison

GitHub is not the only service that lends itself to version control. There are a number of GitHub alternatives, such as Bitbucket and GitLab. GitHub’s community focuses particularly on public open source projects, whereas Bitbucket focuses more on private projects by business users and entrepreneurs. However, it is also possible to create free private repositories on GitHub.

GitLab, another source code management system based on Git, offers its users similar features to market leader GitHub. The most important unique selling point of GitHub is the popularity of the service: Not only are many developers available for projects due to the large community, but in addition, almost everyone in the industry is familiar with working with GitHub. The direct integration of GitHub into many development environments for programmers, for example PyCharm or Visual Studio Code, also makes it easier to work with the web-based service. The smartphone app with over 20,000 positive reviews in the AppStore also makes GitHub stand out.

GitHub

Bitbucket

GitLab

Largest open source community

Focus on business users

Repositories can be hosted on own infrastructure

Smartphone app for iOS and Android

No app yet

No dedicated app, but apps with support for GitLab available for both iOS and Android.

Own continuous integration tool - GitHub Actions

Good integration with other products from the Atlassian Suite (e.g. Jira, Confluence)

Easy to use graphical user interface

Deploying your GitHub web project

Website development is one of the most common usage cases for GitHub. In order to avoid adding all changes in the source code that occur during the development phase to the original code at the end, many teams now use the concept of continuous integration and sometimes update their projects several times a day. This has the advantage that the project is always up to date. Thus, the code fits together at any time of the development and in case of problems can be immediately adjusted. For continuous integration there are various tools, which can also be used in conjunction with version control via GitHub.

If you want the changes you make to the source code to not only be subject to automated testing processes, but also to reach the end user directly, it is worth looking at the concept of continuous delivery.

While this can help you keep your code up to date, sometimes the biggest problem with building websites is deploying the finished code to a host. This is because websites sometimes behave differently in a live, hosted environment than they do during local development on your own computer. Therefore, it is advisable to host the project at the beginning of the development phase in order to be able to directly follow changes in the code live on the example and validate it in this way.

Tip

Use IONOS Deploy Now to connect your GitHub web project to the IONOS hosting infrastructure and keep track of all changes to your website live. In addition to securing your data using SSL, Deploy Now offers a custom domain connection as well as protection against DDoS attacks.

Connecting GitHub repositories with Deploy Now

Connecting your own GitHub repos to IONOS Deploy Now is quite easy and done in just a few steps. Use the IONOS tutorial to learn how to deploy your GitHub repo from IONOS with one click and Deploy Now:

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Alternatively, you can follow our simple step-by-step guide:

  1. Connect your GitHub account to IONOS Deploy Now.
  2. Create a new project.
  3. Import the GitHub repository you want to use.
  4. Now your project will be deployed by IONOS Deploy Now and you can watch your site live on a preview URL.