GitHub has been inundated with negative feedback after announcing a major change to its pricing today. All paid plans now include unlimited private repositories, but there’s a catch. The new pricing structure requires organizations to purchase a seat for each user. At $9 per user/month, collaborating on private repositories is now far more costly than the legacy plans which started at $25/month for 10 repositories and unlimited members.


The change is good news for individual developers with paid accounts, as they are no longer charged on a per-repository basis. However, many owners of organizations are finding the new pricing to be untenable and are actively considering alternatives. For comparison, Bitbucket offers unlimited private repositories and charges $1/user/month. Unlimited users caps out at $200/month.

While unlimited private repositories is an exciting benefit that enables developers to make their code more modular, it isn’t a benefit that every organization needs.

Easy Digital Downloads creator Pippin Williamson explained why he is frustrated with what amounts to a 2,276% increase in costs for his organization:

I actually have no problems with the pricing for new organizations. It’s their space and they provide a huge number of valuable tools. It is absolutely worth it.

The problem I have is the drastic increase for existing customers. It’s largely the principal of increasing a customer’s cost by 2,276% without giving them any additional value.

The value that Github provides me and my team does not change at all with the new pricing, only what I pay per month.

Samuel “Otto” Wood contends that GitHub’s $9/user/month is a reasonable price to pay for having all the functionality of GitHub hosted for an organization but that the alternative of building your own is far more economical.

A “private” repo is, you know, private. On your own server. Git is, after all, decentralized. You could plop a normal git repo on any private VPS you like in a matter of under an hour. If you’re collaborating with a small group of like 5 people, then coordination is not really a big deal that I’d pay $45 a month to use GitHub for it. You can use any tooling you like, make any website you like. You could probably reproduce the important parts of GitHub that you need for your private setup using WordPress in like a day or two.

It just seems to me that any advantages of using GitHub at all seem largely nullified by using private repos. Yes, collaboration and using the same toolset you are used to, I get that. But here you’re falling prey to vendor lock-in once again. You’re used to it, you like it, you’re afraid of change, pay up. Simple.

The advantage of open source software is the freedom to say “up yours” and build your own version instead. Git is open source. Think about it. A $15 a month VPS could easily fit your needs for both privacy and collaboration.

GitHub has established itself as the de facto code collaboration site by offering free hosting for public, open source repositories. However, the emphasis on “social coding” no longer extends to private repositories as organization owners will have little incentive to add more collaborators under the new pricing structure. It discourages organizations from adding users to be bug reporters or third-party collaborators. Teams and agencies hit hardest by the changes are now examining competitors like Bitbucket and self-hosted GitLab.

Organization owners will not be forced onto the new pricing plans immediately and GitHub promises to give a year’s notice before mandating a switch to the new plans:

We want everyone to have a plan with unlimited private repositories, but don’t worry—you are welcome to stay on your current plan while you evaluate the new cost structure and understand how to best manage your organization members and their private repository access. And while we’re currently not enforcing a timeline to move, rest assured that you’ll have at least 12 months notice before any mandated change to your plan.

While many individual developers will see lower monthly prices and even prorated credits on their accounts, the exponential cost increase for GitHub’s largest customers may cause a mass exodus to the company’s more affordable competitors. Are you moving your organization off of GitHub? Let us know in the comments.

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