GitHub Introduces Unlimited Private Repositories, Hikes Prices for Organizations

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GitHub has been inundated with negative feedback after announcing a major change to its pricing today. All paid plans now include unlimited private repositories, but there’s a catch. The new pricing structure requires GitHub.com organizations to purchase a seat for each user. At $9 per user/month, collaborating on private repositories is now far more costly than the legacy plans which started at $25/month for 10 repositories and unlimited members.

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The change is good news for individual developers with paid accounts, as they are no longer charged on a per-repository basis. However, many owners of organizations are finding the new pricing to be untenable and are actively considering alternatives. For comparison, Bitbucket offers unlimited private repositories and charges $1/user/month. Unlimited users caps out at $200/month.

While unlimited private repositories is an exciting benefit that enables developers to make their code more modular, it isn’t a benefit that every organization needs.

Easy Digital Downloads creator Pippin Williamson explained why he is frustrated with what amounts to a 2,276% increase in costs for his organization:

I actually have no problems with the pricing for new organizations. It’s their space and they provide a huge number of valuable tools. It is absolutely worth it.

The problem I have is the drastic increase for existing customers. It’s largely the principal of increasing a customer’s cost by 2,276% without giving them any additional value.

The value that Github provides me and my team does not change at all with the new pricing, only what I pay per month.

Samuel “Otto” Wood contends that GitHub’s $9/user/month is a reasonable price to pay for having all the functionality of GitHub hosted for an organization but that the alternative of building your own is far more economical.

A “private” repo is, you know, private. On your own server. Git is, after all, decentralized. You could plop a normal git repo on any private VPS you like in a matter of under an hour. If you’re collaborating with a small group of like 5 people, then coordination is not really a big deal that I’d pay $45 a month to use GitHub for it. You can use any tooling you like, make any website you like. You could probably reproduce the important parts of GitHub that you need for your private setup using WordPress in like a day or two.

It just seems to me that any advantages of using GitHub at all seem largely nullified by using private repos. Yes, collaboration and using the same toolset you are used to, I get that. But here you’re falling prey to vendor lock-in once again. You’re used to it, you like it, you’re afraid of change, pay up. Simple.

The advantage of open source software is the freedom to say “up yours” and build your own version instead. Git is open source. Think about it. A $15 a month VPS could easily fit your needs for both privacy and collaboration.

GitHub has established itself as the de facto code collaboration site by offering free hosting for public, open source repositories. However, the emphasis on “social coding” no longer extends to private repositories as organization owners will have little incentive to add more collaborators under the new pricing structure. It discourages organizations from adding users to be bug reporters or third-party collaborators. Teams and agencies hit hardest by the changes are now examining competitors like Bitbucket and self-hosted GitLab.

Organization owners will not be forced onto the new pricing plans immediately and GitHub promises to give a year’s notice before mandating a switch to the new plans:

We want everyone to have a plan with unlimited private repositories, but don’t worry—you are welcome to stay on your current plan while you evaluate the new cost structure and understand how to best manage your organization members and their private repository access. And while we’re currently not enforcing a timeline to move, rest assured that you’ll have at least 12 months notice before any mandated change to your plan.

While many individual developers will see lower monthly prices and even prorated credits on their accounts, the exponential cost increase for GitHub’s largest customers may cause a mass exodus to the company’s more affordable competitors. Are you moving your organization off of GitHub? Let us know in the comments.

24 Comments


  1. We moved our private repos from GitHub to a self-hosted DO/GitLab setup last year. We were able to import all our repos really easily from GH and the costs are fixed to what we pay each month for a Digital Ocean droplet (currently $10/mo I believe). They have a one-click install right from their droplet startup and we haven’t really missed GH to be honest.

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  2. So, basically, GitHub’s new pricing model is to collaborative code-hosting what Starbucks’ change to their rewards program was to brewed coffee drinkers?

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    1. Great analogy, Chip! I can’t stand Starbucks myself, but I keep hearing about that change from family and colleagues!

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  3. Wow, do I hate it when Samuel Otto Wood is right. This change kicks us right in the shins as we get by happily on a $22/month plan and the new pricing would take us up over $100. Nothing like what happened to Pippin but enough that we’d rather put Git onto one of our VPS and use Github for open source collaboration only. And without having everything in one place, Github just became a whole lot less convenient.

    It looks like Github has left themselves lots of room to backpedal. Let’s hope they do.

    PS. Monthly SAAS and plugin renewal fees really do add up. Into the thousands. Fine when the weather is fair but taking on too much fixed overhead leaves a business in a difficult position if and when the weather ever changes.

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  4. We’re a publicly funded, open-source project. We currently pay $300/yr for ~65 people and only have a few private repos (mainly for new/testing projects). New pricing has us paying $6500/yr! A change of over 20x is hard to swallow when the service doesn’t change at all!

    Since we’re open-source… we don’t want more repos! Unlimited repos means absolutely nothing to us.

    We need to be able to distinguish between “collaborators” on the open-source repos and organization “users” that need access to the private repos.

    One thing we might do is split our organization: we may have our open source organization that ONLY has open repos and only a couple of real “users”… and then our private organization for the few users that work on private stuff.

    Ironically, this is exactly the OPPOSITE of what GitHub was trying to achieve here!

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  5. Personally, this is why I like Bitbucket and will just create a free account with private repo for each client that needs one. Monthly charge – nothing.

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    1. Well, its not OK to “work” the system and github is worth paying for but as noted above they added no value and increased the cost for some users by thousands of percent.

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  6. A painful change indeed. Let’s hope they hear the backlash and unwind this madness.

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    1. I moved to GitLab from GitHub for hosted services but GitLab was very very slow so I moved to BitBucket instead. I have to say I like BitBucket repo handling more than both GL and GH. I can have both organisations and folders. I really like that.

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  7. Ah, the days are not far gone when we used to push, pull and deploy via chains of post-commit hooks without Github. I think since people are becoming more and more Shell savvy, rolling your own box doesn’t seem daunting anymore. Internally, I can’t ever justify a “private” repo on a 3rd party. But I guess there’s a huge turnkey market and Github does a great job supplying the demand. Too bad the new structure sux0rz ;) Forge on grasshoppa, forge on…

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  8. Gasp…..

    Open Source devs (aka freeloaders that think the world owes them) are suddenly being asked to pay real world prices and they’re all pissed off.

    In other news….water is wet.

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  9. I don’t see what the fuss is about, to be honest. If you’re on a team that has enough people to now cost hundreds of dollars, if not a thousand or two…how much money are you making with that sized team, and why do you feel that Github deserves only $25 of that?

    It’s still worth it.

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    1. What the people are complaining about is that they add a lot of customers and or other contributors to their private repos and that way increase the amount of accounts that require access. Essentially they use the private repos as a private open access repo. If that makes any sense.

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      1. Ahhhhh — gotcha. That does make sense. Good point, and thank you for clearing that up. I had mistook the “griping” as majorly team-based only (like…agency-type teams) Hadn’t thought about much from the customer end of things.

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  10. well … Bitbucket is definitely not what I’d call “competition”. Their whole system is geared toward OS GUI usage, not classic git commandline. Which wouldnt be that bad if there was an actual cross-platform client, but they think only in terms Mac and Windoze.

    Yes, they got a web interface, but just pointing out THIS request thread, ages old, for the simple feature of tagging your branch / setting up a release in source view: https://bitbucket.org/site/master/issues/7399/tag-from-source-view-bb-8612

    Atlassian, the company behind Bitbucket, doesn’t really seem to care what the customers of Bitbucket want. IMO they mainly added this kind of “git space” feature to haul folks in from other platforms, but with the strategy of converting them to use their major product line, eg. JIRA. Oh, and maybe stop complaints of existing JIRA customers about not having a web-based repo to connect with JIRA.

    Just my .02 cents of life experience,
    cu, w0lf.

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    1. As someone that works with BB for few years the only thing I have to say is “ha?”. For basic git usage there is no difference at all neither at command line (lol, obviously), web interface or desktop app. GH has somewhat nicer GUI for web and desktop and that is about it. The differences between them are more in the overall project management workflow.

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      1. I like how I can organise BB projects more than how GitHub handles it. Run into some issues with integrating services and using composer with the https url compared to git@ url. BB is overall though a very pleasant experience.

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  11. When you consider a fairly small web development agency with eight developers and ongoing contracts with a dozen clients. Paying the fees for their developers isn’t a problem, but what about their clients? Many clients expect access to the repositories being used to host their code — that can include the company CEO, various managers, internal web development teams, marketing and sales staff, and several others. Each collaborator now incurs a cost. So, if an average of five people outside of the company require access to a repository for each project, that’s 68 monthly payments the company has to make. The first five cost $25 and the rest cost $9 per month each — a total cost of $592. That’s a massive increase on what a development agency would have previously been paying for their 12 private repositories. Not every can afford these kind of increases, that’s for sure.

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    1. That’s a simple one Matt. Just don’t allow the external companies access to their repositories. I don’t think it’s “normal” to allow doing that – normally it’s the company that wrote the code who retains the IP.

      If they really want access just add those costs into an ongoing bill and pass that on to the customer. They’ll soon stop asking

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  12. What about having a personal account for 7usd and invite your team as collaborator users?

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