A code hosting comparison for open source projects

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If you're starting a new open source project, or open sourcing some existing code, you'll need a publicly accessible location for the version control system holding your code (if you're not planning on setting up a publicly accessible VCS, reconsider; no public source control is a red flag to potential contributors). You could set up your own repository hosting, but with so many companies and groups offering existing setups and services, why not use one of those and save yourself some time? Here's an overview of some of the more popular options.


The granddaddy of code hosting sites, SourceForge has been around since 1999. It offers support for every popular revision control system, from CVS on up to Git. Most modern code hosting services are tightly integrated experiences, presenting a single UI with source code browsing, issue tracking, wikis, etc. While SourceForge is moving in this direction, they still keep some of their old kitchen sink philosophy, allowing projects to run phpBB forums, Wordpress blogs, or anything else they might want.


While still young compared to SourceForge, GitHub has become the de facto host for open source projects, with over 4.2 million repositories at the time of writing. GitHub's strength is their tagline, 'Social Coding'. On GitHub, it's trivial to make a copy of another developer's project, make changes to that project, and then submit those changes using GitHub's pull request system.

Given the number of developers already on GitHub, and how easy it makes submitting contributions, if you're starting a new open source project and hoping for community contributions, use GitHub. Unless you don't like Git.

Google Code

Google Code Project Hosting is one of the most minimal code hosting options available, which may be appealing to anyone who already has their own infrastructure setup. In addition to offering Subversion, Mercurial, or Git repository hosting, Google Code provides wikis and simple issue tracking. The interface design is sparse, and does not provide the social hooks seen throughout GitHub.


Gitorious is noteworthy for being one of the few open source code hosting repositories that's actually open source itself. You're free to download and run the software yourself, or take advantage of their public hosting. They offer Git hosting, wikis, and a merge request system for community contributions (though the interface seems clunkier than the high mark set by GitHub).


Just as Git was squaring off against Mercurial for distributed version control dominance, GitHub was facing Bitbucket. Bitbucket began as a Mercurial only hosting service, but a year after its acquisition by Atlassian, it began offering Git support as well.

Bitbucket is very similar to Github. It offers pull requests, a highly visible fork button on each repository, issues, and wikis. One thing Bitbucket does offer that Github does not is unlimited private repositories. If you want to store your family's secret chocolate chip cookie recipe, Bitbucket will let you do it for free (you'll only need to pay after sharing the recipe with five other family members).

There are many more sites that provide free hosting. I've focused on a few of my favorites (this comparison is also avaliable on Github). If you're looking for something special (perhaps GNU Arch support?), or if you're just curious to see all the options, Wikipedia has a great comparison table.

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mhanwell's picture
Open Source Evangelist

It is nice to see a high level comparison of code hosting resources, but one thing worth pointing out is that if you use Git (or similar DVCS) the decision of where to host becomes less of an issue. It is so easy to mirror code that we tend to push our repositories to several services, in the days of CVS and Subversion this simply wasn't possible and moving to another host was quite a task. Thanks for the round up!

Unidentified's picture

Why wasn't CodePlex evaluated?

bvanevery's picture
Open Minded

I don't know if it's why, but the CodePlex Terms Of Use have a "scum clause" where they'll lay claim to any images associated with your project, saying they can print them on a coffee mug if they want. "(including, by way of example, and not as a limitation, making prints and gift items which include such Images)"

David A. Wheeler's picture

GitHub is a good hosting organization, but note that their software is *NOT* open source software (git is, but not everything that comes with github, making it harder to move out of github). In contrast, the current version of SourceForge and gitorious are both OSS. If that's important to you, SourceForce and gitorious are perhaps better choices.

Manuel Jesús Recena Soto's picture

Hi James,

Good post, very interesting.

There is other ways to support open source community. For example, Clinker is an integrated Software Development Ecosystem based on open source tools.

I invite you to read this initiative:


Anonymous's picture

Unfortunately, all the sites mentioned include in their Terms of Service clauses requiring the users to provide (and pay for) full indemnification for anything that might happen due to the use of the site. In an age of increasing lawsuits over IP stuff which might seem obvious, a single user having to pay for all expenses of the hosting company is a big risk.

Does anyone know of a site with more user-friendly terms?