Understanding the World of GitHub: What is it and How it Works

GitHub, a subsidiary of Microsoft, is the world’s leading software development platform, hosting over 200 million repositories by 73 million developers as of 2021. At its core, GitHub is a web-based version control and collaboration platform that empowers developers to host, review, and collaborate on code, making it easier for them to build and ship software. In this glossary page, you’ll get to know the definition of GitHub, learn how it works, understand its benefits, explore various use cases, uncover best practices, and find the most recommended books about it.

“GitHub is the largest code host in the world, with 3.4 million users. It’s a place that most developers are extremely familiar with and is a place where developers love to contribute.” – Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft

What is GitHub? Definition of Github

GitHub is a web-based hosting service that enables developers to store, manage, and control their code using Git, a popular distributed version control system. It offers a platform where users can collaborate on code projects, contribute to open-source software, and track changes made by others. GitHub provides an intuitive interface and extensive features, such as issue tracking, wikis, pull requests, and code review, improving the software development process.

ℹ️ Synonyms: Source control, Version control, Repository.

How it Works

GitHub operates on the fundamentals of version control and collaboration. When a developer starts a project or wants to contribute to an existing one, they create a repository (commonly known as a repo) to store the project’s files, including code, documentation, and other resources. This repo is accessible to collaborators and can be forked (copied) by others to make changes and submit their contributions via pull requests. The owner of the repository can then review these changes and merge them into the main codebase, maintaining a complete history of revisions and modifications.

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Benefits of using GitHub

  • Version Control: GitHub is built on Git, providing robust version control features that make it easy to track changes and maintain a history of modifications.
  • Collaboration: Work seamlessly with other developers by managing permissions, tracking issues, and reviewing code with pull requests and code review features.
  • Integration: GitHub offers a wide range of integrations with third-party services, allowing developers to streamline their workflows and automate complex tasks.
  • Open-Source Contributions: GitHub is home to millions of open-source projects, providing a platform where developers can contribute to existing projects or start their own.
  • Documentation: Store project documentation alongside code, making it easily accessible and up-to-date.
  • Reputation Building: Showcase your portfolio of work, gain experience by contributing to others’ projects, and demonstrate your skills to potential employers.

GitHub use cases

GitHub’s versatile platform supports a wide range of use cases, including:

Personal Projects & Portfolio

Individual developers can host personal projects, showcasing their coding skills and building a professional portfolio.

Team Collaboration & Project Management

Development teams can collaborate on projects, track issues, and provide a centralized location for documentation and code review.

Open-Source Projects

Developers can contribute to open-source projects or create new ones, encouraging other users to participate and share knowledge.

Enterprise Applications

Organizations can utilize GitHub’s advanced features, such as code review, access control, and integration with continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) tools, to enhance their software development processes.

Best Practices

To make the most of GitHub and maximize your productivity, follow these best practices. Always write clear commit messages, explaining the changes made and their purpose, making it easier for others to understand your code. Stick to a consistent branching strategy, such as the GitFlow or GitHub Flow approach, to maintain a clean commit history. Label issues and pull requests with relevant tags, facilitating communication and organization. Utilize GitHub’s features like code review and project boards to maintain high-quality code and manage tasks effectively. Lastly, invest time in crafting thorough documentation, enhancing the usability and maintainability of your projects.

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Most recommended books about GitHub

To deepen your knowledge of GitHub, consider these highly recommended books:

1. Pro Git by Scott Chacon and Ben Straub: A comprehensive guide to Git and GitHub, covering fundamentals, workflows, and advanced topics.
2. Version Control with Git and GitHub by Dr. Ruchika Nagarkar: This practical guide helps you understand how to leverage Git and GitHub for your projects.
3. Getting Started with Git and GitHub by Simon Holmes: Ideal for beginners, this book walks you through understanding and using Git and GitHub effectively.
4. Effective Git and Github – Mastering Best Practices by Asif Ahmed: Delve into tips and best practices to make the most of Git and GitHub for your projects.


Understanding the core concepts of GitHub and harnessing its power can significantly improve your software development experience. By adopting GitHub best practices and utilizing its features, developers can streamline their workflows and enhance collaboration. With its extensive resources, astounding community, and robust version control system, GitHub has truly emerged as an indispensable tool in the IT industry and software development world.

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Back in 2013, I founded Echo with the simple business idea: "Connect great tech companies around the globe with the brightest software engineers in Eastern Europe." We've employed hundreds of talents so far and keep going.
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li-url Lou Reverchuk

IT Entrepreneur

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