Tay Ray Chuan home archive

thoughts on Bitbucket's launch of support for Git

Sun, 23 Oct 2011 17:17:28 +0800 | Filed under thinking aloud

D-Day: Tuesday, October 4th, +0800. I remember sleepily reading Bitbucket's announcement email; for added effect, my friend excitedly alerted me to the announcement too.

I saw it as a major, game-changing move, but I found it strange that most of my feeds were quiet on this, save for this Hacker News thread (actually I found it while writing this post). Here, I will spill some ink to correct this deficit; if you have a few spare cycles for some macro-level pseudo-analysis, read on.


Back in the pre-Bitbucket Git support days, they seemed to be just rivals at a distance, serving different, non-overlapping audiences (ie. different DVCS flavours). But if you look beyond the repo hosting service they provide, it's more than just a secure, reliable place to host your repository, it's also about the collaboration features; they're selling a complete (mostly DVCS-agnostic) workflow. With Git support, the rivalry is brought to a new, almost mortal level; Bitbucket now competes with Github in the same arena, for the same users.

To discover Bitbucket's motives, let's look back at another event in Bitbucket's of equal importance - its acquisition by Atlassian. Scouring their blog, it seems that Atlassian wasn't really looking to increase its revenue with its acquisition. I quote:

Additionally we acquired Bitbucket last year. This came with 2 main benefits. We had a great hosting platform to store and fork our repository and the team came with a wealth of knowledge about distributed development.

The Mercurial Move - Atlassian Developer Blog

But I don't think the launch of Git support was done in the same vein - that is, to support developers using Git in Atlassian; this time, it's about revenue, and the first step to do that is to get users over.

Let's look at the numbers. In terms of traction, Bitbucket has 60k "accounts" (based on a year-old data)- a far cry from Github, who are boasting on its front page 1m "people", 3m repos.

In this light, their free-for-private plan makes sense if Bitbucket is aiming at growing its user base. (Though I'm a bit iffy on whether free-for-private was intentional. After all, they didn't come up with this while announcing Git support, it was something Bitbucket offered way back in their pre-Git support days, so either Atlassian was following a "grand-plan", or just fortuity.)

So, what does Github think?

Github's response

While I saw Bitbucket's move as bringing the rivalry to an almost mortal level, it's hard to judge if Github thinks the same way, as the dearth of responses extends to Github too. What we do have is Github's main announcement channel (a very active one at that), their blog; but we would do well to heed the old refrain, "correlation is not causation" - it's very easy to claim a post-D-Day post on the blog as a "response", by virtue of simply occurring after D-Day. Let's give it a go anyway.

To put things into perspective: almost 2 weeks before D-Day, Github was on a high, having hit its millionth user. (I wonder if Bitbucket's announcement was a party pooper.) Speculators might point to a major revamp of Github's repo interface, announced almost a week later. But I wouldn't call it a response; something of that magnitude must have been brewing way back.

The only thing that comes close to a response is this little post - nothing like the usual announcement about a new feature; I read it as a reminder to users about its awesomeness, and not to cross over to the "dark side".

So, nothing from them (publicly).

Github's laurels

But were we expecting Github to do anything in response in the first place? I think not - even though Bitbucket is dangling free-for-private, I don't think Github is worried enough to deviate from its free-for-public, paid-for private model. Their offering, though pricey, is top-notch, and they seem like they're pulling all the right strings! Let's look at some of them:


No matter what the true motives behind Bitbucket's move are, Git developers everywhere should be thankful for keeping Github on its toes, what with the competition Bitbucket is providing. Bitbucket has some catch up to do, though, if it's going to seriously take a bite from Github's pie.

PS. Most of my understanding of Github comes from this awesome talk by Tom Preston-Werner.

Update at 1753: more links - there are more, but they pretty much say the same thing.

blog comments powered by Disqus