What is Git?

What is Git?

Git is an open-source, Distributed Version Control System (DVCS). Originally developed in 2005 by the creator of the Linux operating system kernel, Linus Torvalds. Git is also one of the most popular version control systems in the world.

Git has become the popular version control system of choice for many distributed development teams, both due to the way the system has been marketed, but also as its design lends itself to improved performance, collaboration, and security over many other systems.

Git’s distributed architecture means each developer has a local copy of the entire history. These local copies are fully-fledged repositories with a complete history of changes, and do not require any access to a central server, or collaborative network in order to create commits, perform diffs, or inspect previous versions. This, in turn, makes Git heaps faster than some other version control systems.

When it comes to development team workflows, Git also lends itself to easy collaboration, and scaling your team. Unlike centralised version control systems, Git supports a feature branch workflow which provides an isolated environment for code changes. This means every feature or logical part, regardless of size, is created on a new branch, keeping the main branch clean. This also means development progress can continue on a project regardless of approval, or breaks in the production branch, as each contributor can work in their isolated environment.

What’s more, Git uses a cryptographically secure hashing algorithm called SHA1. This ensures your source code history is protected against security vulnerabilities such as accidental or malicious alterations, while making changes traceable.

Git does have it’s downsides, and is not suited to every project. For example, some critics argue Git is overly complex, and not particularly user friendly, citing tedious and lengthy commands in comparison to other systems.

Ironically, one of Gits biggest benefits, its decentralized architecture and resulting speed, can also be one of its biggest flaws when it comes to native large file management. As each contributor has a full clone of the repository, changes to large binary files can result in a bottleneck, and severe slowing, and increased bloat of repositories. There are of course third-party integrations such as Git LFS, and git-annex, that overcome this issue.

Conclusion

Overall, Git is a flexible, secure, and efficient distributed version control system, suited to a range of projects. Although there are criticisms over it's ease of use, and management of large files, it is easy to see why it is the most popular version control system.

Have you used Git in your projects? Do you prefer an alternative version control system, such as SVN or Mercurial? Let us know in the comments.

Want to learn more about the differences between Git and other version control systems? Check out Git vs. SVN and Git vs. Mercurial.

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