What is GitHub? How to start using the code hosting platform that allows you to easily manage and collaborate on programming projects

GitHub logo
GitHub is the standard hosting platform for coders. Getty Images
  • GitHub is a code hosting platform that allows for managing, maintaining, and collaborating on open-source programming projects.
  • To use GitHub, you first need to install a “Git” program, which is software that tracks changes in files.
  • GitHub is the most popular platform for Git repositories and a standard site for coders.
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If you’re interested in software or software development, you’ve likely heard of GitHub.

For a coder, GitHub is akin to what Pinterest offers to an interior designer – a place where a person goes not just to upload content, but also for creative inspiration and collaboration.

Here’s what you need to know about GitHub and how it relates to coding.

What is GitHub?

GitHub is, fundamentally, a hosting platform for coders. The cloud-based service allows coders to effectively manage and maintain open-source programming projects while collaborating with others.

To understand how GitHub works, you have to have an understanding of “Git” and the idea of “version control” in relation to Git.

Git, started by Linux creator Linus Torvalds, is an open-source version control system that tracks changes in files over time.

Version control is an important system when it comes to coding. It enables coders to be nimble with programming, and allows for apps to constantly have new version releases, expansion to other platforms, and bug fixes, among other tracked changes.

Version control systems like Git help maintain the integrity and security of ever-evolving code by safeguarding modifications, and those revisions are then hosted by GitHub, or an alternative “repository” hosting service – although GitHub is the most popular among developers.

This allows developers to easily collaborate, allowing them to download a new version of the software, make changes, and upload the newest revision. Every developer can see these new changes, download them, and contribute.

How to start using Github

If you’re looking for a resource to maintain and share code, you can easily install Git and sign up for GitHub for free. Here’s how to get started:

1. First, you’ll need to install the Git version control system, which you can download for free. Follow the directions specific to the device you’re using.

2. Next, you can create your GitHub account at GitHub.com. A free account will have some limitations, but gives you access to both public and private repositories.

Github.com account creation page
Once you’ve downloaded Git, create a username and password for your GitHub account. Emma Witman/Insider

3. With your free account, you can get started right away and create a repository by clicking Create a repository on the GitHub welcome page to start a new project.

GitHub homepage with option to create a repository.
You can create a repository or take an introduction to GitHub through this page. Emma Witman/Insider

From the same page, you can also select Start Learning to take an “Introduction to GitHub” course if you need more expertise before getting started with creating a repository.

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