Why not just dodge? Overview of GitHub alternatives
GitHub is not without reason one of the most well-known developer tools: functionally optimal in many cases, the service lives from high awareness and broad software support. But it is always worth looking at the alternatives.
In the area of code hosters, there are some interesting alternatives to GitHub.
GitHub has achieved what few web-based file hosts for developers have achieved so far. It is widely known, supported by numerous applications and used daily by millions of developers worldwide. There’s no question about it: GitHub puts together an attractive overall package for software development, regardless of whether you are a lone fighter or a company.
However, the service is repeatedly criticized: on the one hand, because GitHub maintains the open source idea, but without providing the source code of its software itself. And on the other hand, many developers are upset that Microsoft of all people is running the dominant code hosting platform, because GitHub has been part of the Microsoft Group since 2018, with all the downsides.
New AI coding assistant causes abdominal pain
There are also minor scandals. For example, the new AI coding assistant Copilot causes a lot of developers to have a stomach ache because it uses GPL code snippets, but the source code of the tool itself is not open.
In addition, there were still problems with the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act): for example, Microsoft has hastily and unjustifiably deleted repositories of the Youtube downloader Youtube-dl at the instigation of the RIAA music association in the past.
In short: there are good reasons for some developers to stop using GitHub and switch to alternatives. And there are really good GitHub alternatives, but so far they have been classified under “ran further” due to the dominance of GitHub.
GitHub alternative GitLab: Open and without Microsoft
Probably the most interesting GitHub alternative is GitLab: the code platform is used by a number of important open source projects such as Gimp, Inkscape and Gnome Desktop, as well as a number of well-known companies such as Nvidia or Siemens.
The big advantage of GitLab over GitHub is that GitLab runs under GPL and – despite paid packages – also allows self-hosting. GitLab is available for a variety of platforms. There are integrated project wikis and project websites, as well as tools for optimizing continuous integration. It remains close to GitHub in look and feel, from which projects can also be transferred.
SourceForge: Yes, it’s still alive
Long before GitHub existed, open source developers collected their source code from SourceForge: the service, which was created back in 1999, is still active today, although it has lost a lot of ground – also because of the success of GitHub and its own strategic mistakes. As a “complete open source and business platform”, however, SourceForge is now enjoying great popularity among many developers again.
Under new management, the interface has been systematically modernized and the functionality has been significantly improved. SourceForge now runs on the Apache Allura hosting system and supports Git and other version control systems. As a result, SourceForge is now (again) an interesting alternative to GitHub.
GNU Savannah: For FOSS Purists
Open source purists are faced with the problem with some code hosting platforms that they are often either proprietary themselves, running on proprietary systems, or owned by an organization that is not subordinate to the FOSS idea. Anyone who takes the idea of freedom seriously will not feel comfortable here.
But Mt GNU Savannah has a really open alternative: the service hosts code projects 100 percent on free software and is also free itself. Savannah supports a variety of VCS tools: in addition to Git and Mercurial, CVS, Subversion or GNU Bazaar and GNU Arch.
Unfortunately, developers who want to use Savannah have to live with some limitations: the software must comply with the FOSS concept, which means that no dependencies or functions of non-GNU software may be integrated. However, there is an alternative with Savannah NonGNU that is less restrictive and allows non-GNU projects.
BitBucket: Code Management for Teams
Atlassian’s BitBucket is a cloud-based GitHub alternative with a focus on teams and continuos delivery and deployment. With numerous team-relevant functions, the service is superior to GitHub in this respect.
Since it is an Atlassian tool, it is part of the Atlassian DevOps toolchain and integrates seamlessly with Jira, Bamboo, Jenkins or Trello if necessary. This makes the code platform well suited for teams that already rely on Atlassian products anyway.
Third-party tools can also be connected to a certain extent. Integrated code reports, a code-capable search function and user management complete the package. In addition, BitBucket offers very extensive enterprise security functions that protect the data within the provider’s cloud.
Launchpad: Software collaboration, not just for Ubuntu
Launchpad is one of the lesser-known GitHub alternatives. This is mainly due to the fact that the code platform is operated by Canonical, the manufacturer of Ubuntu Linux. As a result, the platform has of course been used excessively in the past for projects directly related to Ubuntu, which made the service perceived as a pure “Ubuntu platform”.
However, this is not true: Launchpad is a general code hoster without limitation to a specific topic. However, it is of course particularly easy to develop for Ubuntu on this platform. In addition to code hosting via Bazaar and Git, there is a bug tracking system that is highly praised in developer circles. Thanks to mailing lists, collaboration and translation functions as well as sometimes higher functionality, Launchpad can therefore be an interesting alternative for GitHub renegades.