What Is GitHub and Why Should I Use It?
GitHub is home to 40 million software developers, making it the world’s largest center for collaboration and social networking among programmers. GitHub makes its money from private repositories (also known as repos) and on-premise software solutions, yet it’s much more than a software company. Its soul is in the public repos, in the open source software projects that range from Google’s Machine Learning framework TensorFlow, to web UI like Vue, and even to the Linux OS kernel.
“At a high level,” writes Kinsta, “GitHub is a website and cloud-based service that helps developers store and manage their code, as well as track and control changes to their code.” Essentially, it’s an organizational solution for software development.
Everyone from amateur hobbyists to large enterprises takes advantage of GitHub’s unique functionality and community. In this article, we’re going to go over the what, how, and why of GitHub to understand how this site has become such a behemoth in the software development world.
What is Git?
Photo by Luke Chesser on Unsplash
Before we can understand GitHub, we need to talk about the Git software itself. In 2005 Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, developed this version control system as a response to the growing community of contributors to the Linux kernel. He wanted a way to efficiently and safely track changes, review versions, and incorporate other peoples’ work into his own projects.
Korbin Brown at How-To Geek explains how it works: “When developers create something (an app, for example), they make constant changes to the code, releasing new versions up to and after the first official (non-beta) release. Version control systems keep these revisions straight, storing the modifications in a central repository. This allows developers to easily collaborate, as they can download a new version of the software, make changes, and upload the newest revision. Every developer can see these new changes, download them, and contribute.”
Basically, Git is a command-line tool that helps software engineers manage source code. It incorporates a cryptographically secure hashing algorithm, SHA1, to ensure integrity while also providing flexibility in nonlinear development workflows. By meeting programmers’ unique demands, Git enables collaboration in the software sphere just like board meetings do in business.
It took off. “The most widely used modern version control system in the world today is Git,” concludes Atlassian. Altogether, Git is the most prominent tool of its kind because it’s the best way for developers to collaborate on a program simultaneously.
How Does GitHub Work?
Git alone is a powerful tool, but GitHub is where the real magic happens. The site provides a platform for developers to store their projects, network with each other, and find ways to collaborate and put their heads together. In a word, it’s a hub for all things Git.
Users start by uploading their repo to the site. Though the repo owner maintains exclusive write privileges on their repo, interested parties can start working on it by using GitHub’s forking feature. “The flagship functionality of GitHub is ‘forking’ — copying a repository from one user’s account to another,” writes TechCrunch’s Klint Finley. “This enables you to take a project that you don’t have write access to and modify it under your own account.”
From there, the developer can send a “pull request” to the repo’s owner, asking them to review their “commit” (aka change). If the owner likes the changes, then they can merge them into their code with a click of a button and make it a part of the official repo.
Though these three features — fork, pull request, and merge — give GitHub its power, the true brilliance is the community aspects. User profiles act like a resume by showing off repos, past work, and previous pull requests. These features incentivize developers to create high-quality code and to actively engage in these open source projects. A good GitHub profile can be the key to securing an excellent job.
Why Do So Many Developers Use GitHub?
Software developers love GitHub because it gives them an opportunity to work on interesting projects, cultivate their skills, build a reputation, and enlist other talent to help with their own programs. GitHub is like the village square of the software development world. It’s where people go when they want to work together.
At the end of the day, this website creates a space for mutually beneficial relationships. It provides an ecosystem for innovation and creativity. GitHub allows us to fully realize Linus’s Law: “many eyes make all bugs shallow.” Essentially, the globalized effort of countless talented developers accelerates the pace of progress and improves the quality of the outcomes because people understand that they form a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts when they come together.
On a final note, Finley makes an astute observation that “GitHub has become the Library of Alexandria for code examples. Since Git encourages the granular recording of changes, programmers, be they absolute beginners or experts, can trace the steps of some of the greatest developers in the world and find out how they solved thorny problems.”
Due to its position as the epicenter of software learning, GitHub is not only valuable to those who use it on a day-to-day basis. It’s an asset for the entire human race.
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Published By Yuri Chamarelli
Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.