GitHub users no longer have to pay to keep code private. The company is now offering unlimited private repositories to Free account users, with up to three collaborators. Developers have different reasons for wanting to keep their code private – it may not be ready, they may be working on a side project, or may just be starting out in their coding journey. GitHub now makes it possible for users with free accounts to do that work in private, without having to upgrade to a Pro account for $7/month.
This change brings the code hosting site more in line with competitors like GitLab.com, which allows for unlimited private projects and collaborators, and Bitbucket, a platform that has offered this for much longer. Bitbucket was actually GitLab’s inspiration for this model.
GitHub’s announcement was well-received but for many who have already moved to GitLab, this news come too late. Some are also wary of giving GitHub access to their private projects after Microsoft acquired the company for $7.5 billion last year. However, GitHub seems to be focusing its efforts less on monetizing the small fish and more on evolving the company’s Enterprise offering. It has combined its Business Cloud and Enterprise products into one unified “GitHub Enterprise” product that starts at $21/user/month.
“At GitLab we think that repositories will become a commodity,” GitLab CEO Sid Sijbrandij said in reaction to GitHub’s announcement. “I think Microsoft will try to generate more revenue with people using Azure more instead of paying for repos. We’re focusing on making a single application for the entire DevOps lifecycle that can replace a lot of other tools.”
Every inch given in this space makes code sharing platforms more competitive. In terms of private repositories, GitHub has come close to offering what its smaller competitors have been giving away for free for a long time. If GitHub were to add Continuous Integration (CI) for free users to match GitLab’s free tier, for example, it might capture even more of the market. Different features sway different types of users to adopt one platform or another and eventually some of those turn into paying customers.
For existing GitHub Free users, unlimited private repositories means the opportunity to keep their incomplete projects out of the public eye, instead of having people stumble on them and wonder why they don’t work as expected. It also frees up a few more dollars for Pro users who want to downgrade to Free accounts.