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What Is GitHub? An Intro to GitHub For WordPress Users (Or Anyone Else!)

GitHub is a popular website/service that helps developers manage their code. Beyond serving as a repository to store code, GitHub also makes it easy for developers to monitor and control changes to all or some of their code (this is known as version control).

In order to understand what GitHub is, that term – version control – is essential. We’ll dig into that first, and then we’ll explain the “Git” part of GitHub as well.

What Is Version Control And Why Is It Important?

At a very high level, version control helps you track and manage changes to “something”. We say something because, while GitHub focuses on software/code, you’ll find version control systems for other types of knowledge as well, like documents or generic collections of information. We’ll focus exclusively on software in this article, though.

So why is version control essential?

Think about it – if you have multiple people working on changes to a large code base, it’s important to be able to track what those changes are to monitor the integrity of the information, as well as revert back to a previous version if needed.

Additionally, version control lets developers safely work on just a specific part of the overall code base using two concepts called branching and merging.

What Is Branching And Merging In Version Control?

Branching lets a developer duplicate a specific part of the larger code base. Then, the developer can safely work on that “branch” without making any changes to the original source code.

Once the developer finishes making and testing those changes, the developer can request to merge the code back into the main source code.

After the merge request is approved, the code is live.

Additionally, if there are issues in the future, it’s easy to revert back to the original code before that merge request was approved.

Git Is One Specific Type Of Version Control

Git is one specific version control system. It’s an open-source project developed by Linus Torvalds back in the mid-2000s. It’s by far the dominant version control player, with the vast majority of developers choosing to use Git (~87% according to Stack Overflow).

As the name suggests, GitHub uses Git, as well.

Git is what’s known as distributed version control, which means that the entire codebase is mirrored on every single developer’s local computer (rather than just a single part of the code base).

The benefit of this distributed approach is productivity – it speeds up many operations and also allows for easier branching and merging.

What Is GitHub, Then?GitHub homepage

So what is GitHub?

While Git is open-source, GitHub is a for-profit service that makes it easy for individuals and companies to use Git.

You can kind of think of it like how WordPress.com is a for-profit implementation of the open-source WordPress software.

GitHub makes using Git more convenient for developers, as well as more accessible to non-technical users because it offers a simple user interface, whereas using Git by itself requires using the command line.

GitHub also offers free hosting for open-source projects and individuals, which has helped make it incredibly popular. Currently, GitHub has over 28 million users.

While anyone can use GitHub for free, GitHub monetizes its service by selling plans that offer more security and functionality to businesses. Major institutions – like Facebook and PayPal – use GitHub.

In mid-2018, Microsoft struck a deal to acquire GitHub for $7.5 billion, and the deal is expected to close by the end of 2018.

How To Start Using GitHub

If you’d like to try GitHub, you can sign up for a free account. Then, the Hello World guide will get you acquainted with most basic functionality, like creating a new repository or merging a pull request.

What is GitHub interface like?

Can You Use GitHub With Pagely Managed WordPress Hosting?

Yes! Pagely supports the GitHub Deployment API, which lets you deploy code from GitHub to your Pagely hosting account.

We also have several documentation articles to help you use Git with Pagely.

Are There Other Ways That WordPress Users Can Benefit From GitHub?

There are a few other ways that GitHub or Git connect to WordPress.

VersionPress Merges Git And WordPress

First, VersionPress is a project that brings Git version control to WordPress. It adds version control to both your WordPress site’s files and database, which lets you automatically track changes and roll them back if needed.

Coincidentally, you can find the VersionPress source code at…GitHub.

You Can Find Theme And Plugin Source Code At GitHub

Second, many WordPress developers host the source code for their open-source plugins and themes on GitHub.

For example, you can find the code for the WooCommerce plugin or the popular GeneratePress theme at GitHub.

If you’re technically savvy, you can contribute to these projects. Or, you can also deploy WordPress themes and plugins directly from GitHub via the premium WP Pusher plugin.

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