I was a heavy Github user. That is to say, I used them exclusively for my code projects. For a long time, there was no question in my mind of who to give my projects to. Even when Gitlab entered the market, my first thought was, these guys are just copying GH, why would I convert? Not to mention, hearing the rumors that the CEO is was a jerk didn’t entice me to rush to adopt.
A few crucial moments, and Gitlab releases, changed that way of thinking within a year.
Initially, it was sheer curiosity that got me clicking around on their product. That and the very low barrier to entertain that curiosity.
I had reached my “private repo” limit on Github, and of my private repos few were businesses and mostly projects that I experimented ideas with and/or coded up prototypes. So, I had reached that limit right when I had another idea I wanted to flesh out, and upgrading for a cost didn’t seem worth it. Out of curiosity, I went to GitLab and logged in.
As the name implies, GitLab did not shy away from their copy-cat beginnings as a GH clone. Because of that, I was able to login using GH credentials and import all my private repos for free. The conversions was instant and easy, and my access to an unlimited store of private repos sure did help. The copy-cat look and feel played to my advantage since there was no ramp-up required. What was different about the site were things I hated about GH. Like the wording on PRs (“MRs” in GitLab), or how I could create new files from within the UI.
All in all, an unexpectedly pleasurable experience.
Top of the Hill
My first experience was my gateway drug. Each new idea/project I started, I started in GitLab. It wasn’t too long after that I used them almost exclusively. Gradually, feature after feature, GitLab took that initial win with me and solidified it with feature I really loved having all in once place, like CI and CD.
Successful startups typically take one of two approaches: innovating on one thing and the rest is copy and paste, or, finding innovation as a combination of many non-innovations and putting them together in a beautiful way. For example, the first utensil was not a spork, and sliced bread did nothing more than combine bread and a knife in a novel, simple, and less expensive way.
GitLab is like sliced bread in that, they took a few things I already used (docker, git, CI/CD), and combined them seemlesless, and cost effectively, as their innovation.
I can very easily go from a concept-project, into a full blown production sized deployment suite in a matter of minutes. In its most basic form, GitLab is very easy to use and can be entirely free.
What keeps me happy is that they keep pumping useful improvements out; and I emphasize useful. It is not getting cluttered with features that get in the way, or as a way to prove they are hard at work. Rather, they seem to have a pulse on the dev community.
Where are they Still Losing?
One thing that has yet to change is the stronghold GitHub has on the community driven aspects of development. Their attention to open-source, from links to NPM package repos, to issues for projects, all keep me returning to GH on my google searches.
Will GitLab take that on next? We will have to wait and see!