GitHub vs GitLab: Here are 11 Key Differences

By Prometteur solutions 19 Min Read

Are you looking for the best content on GitHub vs GitLab? Perhaps, you want to do a critical review of both technologies and see which is best for your project. Well, if you answered yes, this blog post is just for you. Let us take a look.

These are two very common platforms for hosting and collaborating on version-controlled code. 

In this post, we will unpack the key differences between these two solutions across areas like workflow approaches, pricing, built-in features, customizability, and more. 

Our goal is to help developers and engineering teams understand how GitHub and GitLab stack up across critical factors. We want to help them determine the best fit for their needs. 

Whether you’re looking to accelerate deployment velocity or enforce stringent compliance controls, our detailed comparison will reveal how these two systems align with different priorities. 

GitHub vs GitLab: Unpacking the Key Differences

When evaluating GitHub vs GitLab, developers consider two of the most capable and fully-featured platforms for hosting and collaborating on version-controlled codebases in the cloud. 

What Is Github? 

Boasting over 56 million members since its launch in 2008, GitHub pledges simplified workflows for hosting Git repositories thanks to an interface prioritizing clarity. 

The extensive GitHub community and seamless integration with popular developer tools also enable first-rate collaboration opportunities.

What is GitLab? 

Alternatively, GitLab markets itself as an all-in-one DevOps solution ever since starting operations in 2011.  GitLab goes beyond GitHub’s focus on excellent Git repositories and social coding. 

It comes with the added value of also integrating CI/CD pipelines, project tracking, issue management, and more. All of which are within a single application.

GitHub vs GitLab – Here are 11 the Key Differences

There are some major differences between GitHub and GitLab. Let’s take a look. 

Authentication and Access Control

When evaluating GitHub vs GitLab across core differences, specialized access control emerges as a clear differentiation. This one favors GitLab strongly.

Specifically, GitLab promotes flexible permission schemes allowing admins to dictate distinct access levels across various roles. 

Settings can assign read, write, edit, approve and other exclusive capabilities to developers, managers, auditors and more according to their responsibilities. Groups benefit from role-based access tuning without performance impact.

Conversely, GitHub access management adopts a broader stroke. While still enabling read/write permissions, GitHub’s model lacks the intricate specificity and control important for large, secure enterprises. 

Those using GitHub sacrifice granularity in favor of a simplified access structure sufficient for many initiatives.

So, for projects with advanced security requirements, GitLab’s maturity around fine-grained access controls provides confidence. The precision reduces risks while still fostering collaboration. For less sensitive efforts, GitHub access gets the job done albeit less elegantly.

Pricing Favors Frugal Developers Choosing GitHub vs GitLab

Pricing emerges as another area setting GitHub and GitLab apart considerably. 

GitLab delivers flexibility catering to budget-conscious users. Specifically, this is through a permanently free tier incorporating unlimited private repositories even for smaller teams. This allows developers to avoid fees entirely while still securing sensitive code.

Meanwhile, GitHub also provides free accounts but exclusively for public repositories, making privacy impossible. As soon as private repos enter the picture at scale, paid GitHub plans become essential. 

Costs quickly accumulate for larger organizations juggling numerous private codebases and contributors. 

In the battle of GitHub vs GitLab, GitLab pricing resonates with users eager to avoid subscriptions when possible. The always-free generous private repo allotment diminishes worries around billing. However, for public open-source projects or private repositories at extreme scales, GitHub’s paid tiers may make more financial sense thanks to volume discounts.

So when evaluating GitHub vs GitLab based on pricing, GitLab lets thrifty developers bypass fees more easily if their needs are modest. But substantial private repo volumes suit GitHub better over the long run. In a value comparison, both options justify costs through unique advantages.

Self-Hosting Favors Control Loving Users Debating GitHub vs GitLab

Another area distinguishing GitHub vs GitLab involves deployment flexibility – specifically self-hosted vs SaaS options. 

Here, GitLab empowers users wishing to retain direct infrastructure control by facilitating repository hosting on proprietary servers or virtual machines. Engineers can fine tune and harden their own GitLab instance matched to compliance needs.

Conversely, GitHub adopts a cloud-native approach lacking self-hosted abilities. While convenient, this also means reduced authority over scale, backups, networks, and hardware expenditures. 

Users ultimately entrust GitHub’s infrastructure team with availability and data integrity.

For organizations obsessed with oversight into root access, OS-level security, bare metal or private cloud hosting, GitLab self-management grants that power. But for development teams happy offloading server maintenance to concentrate on coding, 

GitHub as a turnkey SaaS platform simplifies operations drastically despite some lock-in.

When evaluating self-hosting freedom within GitHub vs GitLab comparison metrics, GitLab certainly prevails. But GitHub cloud convenience offers legitimate advantages around cost, maintenance and continuity that appeal to many modern engineering departments.

GitHub vs GitLab: Features

When assessing the expansive built-in features of GitHub vs GitLab, substantial differences emerge – ones that showcase GitLab’s “all-in-one” ethos compared to GitHub’s more modular approach.

Specifically, GitLab bakes in advanced project management, agile boards, value stream analytics, issue tracking, code review automation, CI/CD and compliance right within its platform. This unified model eliminates tool sprawl as developers enjoy tightly integrated DevOps abilities.

Meanwhile, GitHub provides robust repositories, contribution management, actions for basic CI, discussions and docs – all at a high grade. However, for enterprise DEVOPS capabilities, third-party integration is required across project insights, automated deployments and beyond. This leaves engineering teams stitching together an à la carte stack.

Ultimately, in an audit of out-of-the-box features, GitLab streamlines delivery by interlinking must-have functions natively. GitHub forces teams to cobble together the same end-to-end workflow using partners. So when evaluating depth of built-in features, GitLab shines over GitHub for simplicity’s sake. But GitHub’s best-of-breed composable approach has merits too.

Security-Conscious Teams Select GitLab Over GitHub

When comparing the security capabilities inherent to GitHub vs GitLab, GitLab pulls ahead for the following; authentication, access controls, compliance automation and beyond – winning over security-focused engineers in the process.

Notable examples include GitLab’s capability to enforce mandatory code reviews before merges based on user roles. Advanced login policies, detailed audit logs, dynamic masking to obfuscate secrets as well as built-in dependency scanning also help GitLab excel for security-conscious teams. 

While GitHub has made strides with code scanning integrations and required statuses, overall security depth natively falls short of GitLab’s robust controls. Without relying on external tools, GitLab bakes in safeguards allowing projects to meet stringent enterprise standards more easily.

So when security-related feature checks appear in GitHub vs GitLab scorecards, GitLab delivers assurance through native seamless security orchestrating approvals, access and awareness accurately. 

GitHub provides building blocks but forces third-party additions to achieve comparable security measures. For secure development life cycles, GitLab saves teams integration hassles.

CI/CD Automation Favors GitLab Over GitHub

When reviewing the continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD) capabilities included within GitHub vs GitLab, GitLab has a clear advantage. We give thanks to embedded automation tooling exceeding GitHub’s piecemeal offerings on this.

Specifically, GitLab ships with a full-featured CI/CD engine leveraging pipelines, job orchestration and deployment automation. This empowers developers to configure robust CI workflows natively triggering automated build, test and release processes in response to code changes.

Meanwhile, GitHub relies on Actions for basic CI needs but lacks orderly CD capabilities out-of-the-box. Instead, GitHub forces teams to stitch together CI servers, external testing tools and third-party deployment mechanisms to replicate a standardized CI/CD stack.

Therefore, in a comparison of CI/CD features intrinsic to GitHub vs GitLab, GitLab makes end-to-end automation simplicity a prime differentiator. GitHub provides CI foundations but falls short of facilitating mature, enterprise-grade CD mechanics without assistance. For acceleration via CI/CD, GitLab allows teams to hit the ground running faster.

Project Insights Favor GitLab Over GitHub

Considering the built-in project analytics and reporting capabilities of GitHub vs GitLab, GitLab again outperforms. This is largely because it comes with integrated data visualizations exceeding GitHub’s offerings.

Specifically, GitLab has Value Stream Analytics presenting insightful development lifecycle metrics around; cycle times, workflow durations and team productivity out-of-the-box. Interactive data allows managers to pinpoint inefficiencies.

Comparatively, GitHub lacks embedded analytics for deep project insights. Without third-party application integration, GitHub only provides raw activity timelines lacking actionable analytics. Data visualization and reporting require additional tools.

At this point, we will conclude by saying that, in a feature comparison of project reporting included natively within GitHub vs GitLab, GitLab saves teams integration headaches. 

GitLab’s focused analytics empower data-driven decisions to optimize development processes over time. For those seeking metrics-backed project improvements, GitLab delivers over GitHub.

Customization Favors GitLab Over GitHub

Looking at the personalization and customization capacities intrinsic to GitHub vs GitLab, GitLab again demonstrates greater adaptability. This is especially true when you consider how it meets an organization’s specialized needs.

Notably, GitLab enables deep customization of access permissions, workflow rules, branch policies, issue templates, project templates and more. Developers can fine-tune GitLab to standardize preferred team workflows.  

Meanwhile, GitHub allows some access control and organization tweaks but trails GitLab in moulding GitHub to match unique team requirements. While configurability has improved, GitHub remains more constrained without low-level personalization.

Essentially, GitLab permits teams to tailor a development platform fitting their culture through custom processes, templates and governance. GitHub’s flexibility lags by comparison. So for teams demanding exacting project environment control, GitLab complies better. GitHub’s ease-of-use appeals broadly but with less specialization.  

When weighing extensibility within GitHub vs GitLab assessments, what sets GitLab apart is the enablement to define bespoke team standards. GitHub’s approach favours convention over specific configuration.

License Compliance Checks Favor GitLab

We did a fair comparison of the license compliance capabilities within GitHub vs GitLab and we found out that; GitLab pulls ahead by baking in controls absent from GitHub.

Specifically, GitLab provides administrators tools to define allowed software licenses based on legal or open-source policies. Automated scans then continuously validate all dependencies and libraries against these allow lists, flagging conflicts.

However, GitHub currently lacks any embedded license compliance features for enforcing permitted licenses by policy. Instead, manual reviews or third-party audits are required to attest compliance from repositories, wasting time.

Effectively, GitLab simplifies adherence to license terms by automating enforcement natively, saving teams the overhead of tedious manual verification. So for organizations requiring assured license conformance across projects, GitLab delivers peace of mind that GitHub presently does not match. When licensing oversight matters, GitLab compliance checks provide confidence.

Team Discussions Present Across GitHub and GitLab

How about the area of collaboration capabilities? Well, we found that both platforms achieve feature parity for critical conversation workflows through team discussions.

Fundamentally, the two providers allow developers to debate ideas, share updates, review code and analyze issues. They both act by commenting on inside issues, merging requests, commits and other entities. Inline discussions keep conversations contextual. 

Teams can also create discussion posts housing longer-form exchanges not tied to specific codes. Markdown formatting, attachments, references and emojis enrich exchanges.

Notably, neither GitHub nor GitLab exerts a clear advantage here – the inclusion of team discussions generates a draw. Both satisfy needs to align, inform, gather inputs and make decisions by embedding conversations along the development lifecycle.

So for vital team communication requirements, GitHub and GitLab tie in abilities by incorporating on-platform exchanges between co-located and distributed members collaborating on projects. Discussion tools promote transparency.

Load Testing Favors Premium GitHub Pricing

GitHub narrowly achieves superiority by providing load simulation directly to general paid users. 

Specifically, GitHub Advanced and Enterprise tiers enable engineers to simulate high traffic to mimic production environments during final QA. Testing identifies bottlenecks before launches by graphing critical metrics.

Contrast this to GitLab embedding of similar load testing – but exclusively in premium Elite tiers. Regular paid GitLab users lack built-in utility to confirm resiliency before releases. Additional cloud testing services become essential instead.

Summarily, for general developer teams seeking to validate web application resilience under heavy loads at limited costs, GitHub represents better value. GitHub load testing utility out-of-the-box offers insurance for upgrades, migrations or redesigns. But high-volume teams and enterprises with larger budgets should scrutinize elite GitLab load simulation as well.

GitHub Pages vs GitLab Pages

Both GitHub and GitLab empower developers to publish static web pages for documenting and marketing open-source projects. Their streamlined workflows allow collaborators to fork repositories and experiment with changes.

Specifically, GitHub offers intuitive guidance to launch basic sites quickly, supplying themes to simplify layout and styling tasks for novice users. Meanwhile, GitLab promotes adaptable build automation leveraging CI/CD pipelines for assembling production-ready static sites from markup, assets and templates.

However, due to their specialized nature, neither option furnishes server-side dynamic scripting out-of-the-box as found in traditional CMS platforms. Instead, GitHub Pages and GitLab Pages focus exclusively on client-side content like HTML, CSS and JavaScript – limiting suitability for certain use cases.

Therefore, teams reliant on server-side technologies cannot directly migrate solutions like WordPress blogs across as-is. Yet with proper configuration, version control integration remains viable for dynamic systems via SSH links from hosts like Kinsta back to underlying Git repositories.

In summary, both GitHub and GitLab static hosting fill important roles promoting projects, but complementary third-party tools pick up where limitations around dynamic pages emerge. Together they lighten administrative duties so developers spend more time coding.

GitHub Flow vs GitLab Flow

While the underlying Git technology used by GitHub and GitLab is nearly identical, the recommended workflows used on each platform are quite different. 

  • GitHub’s Speed-Focused Approach

GitHub promotes a fast-paced, feature-driven development workflow that focuses on frequently merging new code branches into the main branch. This approach allows small Agile development teams to deploy new features rapidly.

With GitHub’s workflow, the main branch is always ready to deploy to production. This ensures teams can quickly roll back changes if something goes wrong, reinstating the previous version within seconds.

  • GitLab’s Emphasis on Reliability 

In contrast, GitLab emphasizes maintaining multiple long-lived branches beyond just the main “master” branch, such as separate branches for production and pre-production environments. This facilitates a robust, multi-stage testing process where a single code review is not sufficient before merging.

While this can slow things down for smaller teams wanting to deploy features quickly, it enables larger teams with dedicated QA resources to allow their R&D members to iterate freely without having to test every small change.

  • Shared Capabilities, Different Priorities

While both platforms share the same underlying Git capabilities, GitLab prioritizes code stability and reliability testing, while GitHub emphasizes raw speed and agility. 

However, both workflows are possible on either platform – they just are not the officially recommended approaches.

So in essence, the core difference lies in which virtues each platform promotes, not fundamentally different technical capabilities.


Both GitHub and GitLab have merits depending on team priorities. GitHub streamlines collaboration for lean engineering teams shipping features rapidly. Meanwhile, GitLab reduces tool sprawl for enterprises needing integrated DevOps. 

Ultimately, those valuing speed may lean toward GitHub, while compliance-driven teams can embrace GitLab’s security. 

However, both platforms continue innovating so revisiting evaluations is encouraged as capabilities evolve. 

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