GitHub Adds Unlimited Private Repos to Free Tier, Combines Enterprise Offerings

Developers and engineers who like to use GitHub for free are getting a big boost: The code-hosting platform has added unlimited private repos to its free tier, which also allows you up to three collaborators for your projects.

Specifically, you can have three collaborators per private repository. Even better: You’re not limited in terms of the total number of collaborators for your account, meaning the total number of collaborators for private repos is simply 3x for your private repository count. If you have 10 private repos, for example, you can have 30 unique collaborators for free.

Prior to this change, private repos for individual developers was a $7/month charge. But there is a downside to the new tweaks: The free tier limits your collaborators to three per project, whereas the paid tier meant unlimited collaborators. We’d guess GitHub simply examined its statistics and found most of us don’t have more than three collaborators per project, which is how they settled on that threshold.

There are also changes to GitHub’s paid offerings. The new ‘GitHub Enterprise’ will encompass Enterprise Cloud (formerly GitHub Business Cloud) and Enterprise Server (formerly-and-still GitHub Enterprise), and remain $21 per month. The $7 per month GitHub Developer tier is still available, but is renamed GitHub Pro (this allows unlimited collaborators for private repos), while GitHub Teams ($9 per month) remains untouched. (The company has a full breakdown in a corporate blog posting.)

Speculatively, this is a gift from Microsoft, which purchased GitHub last June. As with most acquisitions of its kind, the smaller entity no longer feels the pinch to monetize its services, as the new parent company has deep pockets, so the end-user gets more services for free or at a reduced cost. The trade-off is likely data; late last year, GitHub rolled out a unified search feature for those of us working with public and private repos. It also introduced token-scanning for repos with “known formats” from outside dependencies with security issues.

Neither of those features directly relate to GitHub going more freemium, but there seems to be a quiet push for more usage, which means more data available to Microsoft and GitHub. That’s typically cause for concern, but Microsoft seems far more interested in improving services for developers than selling ads, so we’ll be a bit more pragmatic with our criticisms here. To wit, more behind-the-scenes algorithmic data scanning will likely result in a more contextually aware GitHub, and possibly better services with Microsoft’s IDEs such as Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code.

This move also seems custom-made for smaller teams, where a foursome might be working on a project but unwilling to pay for the option of pushing and pulling features to the master branch.

What will be interesting is whether or not this leads to private repos showing up in searches by default with the option to hide them. If that happens, GitHub could end up a bit more like the patent office for new projects than a behind-the-scenes platform for private repos – but that’s probably just wishful thinking. For now, enjoy the free private repos with your friends.

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