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On Tuesday, GitHub announced a change to its plans that would make collaboration between developers much cheaper. Free, in fact. Anyone can launch an organization for at no charge with unlimited public and private repositories. The change also includes an unlimited number of collaborators.

This will be good news for small WordPress development teams without the cashflow to upgrade to the paid Team pricing tier or higher. I have worked with several small plugin and theme businesses who could not foot the per-user billing and sought other solutions such as GitLab and Bitbucket. This move should make GitHub more enticing.

According to the FAQs page, this pricing change is a permanent one.

“Until now, if your organization wanted to use GitHub for private development, you had to subscribe to one of our paid plans,” wrote Nat Friedman, CEO of GitHub, in the announcement. “But every developer on earth should have access to GitHub. Price shouldn’t be a barrier.”

Screenshot of GitHub's pricing tiers.
GitHub’s lowest pricing tiers.

The Free pricing tier now offers:

  • Unlimited public and private repositories.
  • Unlimited collaborators.
  • 2,000 Actions minutes/month.
  • 500MB of GitHub Packages storage.

For a full overview of all changes, GitHub has created a question-and-answer section in its FAQs that covers each detail.

“This means teams can now manage their work together in one place: CI/CD, project management, code review, packages, and more,” said Friedman. “We want everyone to be able to ship great software on the platform developers love.”

The paid Team plan still exists. Like the Free plan, it is cheaper for a team of developers. GitHub reduced the pricing from $9/month for each user to $4/month. The plan also includes 3,000 GitHub Actions minutes each month, which will go into effect on May 14.

GitHub seems to be moving away from its previous pay-for-private model. Instead, they have focused more on pricing based on features. In January 2019, several months after Microsoft acquired GitHub, the company announced unlimited free private repositories. However, only three collaborators were allowed on a project before being required to upgrade to a pro plan.

GitHub has essentially cornered the market on open-source in which most code is maintained in public repositories. With the recent acquisition of npm, it will only grow stronger in this space. This pricing change should make it far more competitive for hosting private projects. The free tier puts the company on par with GitLab’s free level. Bitbucket is now looking a little more costly. It would not be surprising if the site removed its five-collaborator limit on its free plan if it sees a dip in usage.

On the whole, this will be a good thing for commercial WordPress theme and plugin authors. From several companies I have knowledge of or have worked with, many of them have kept their public repositories on GitHub. However, they would use a different site for private repositories. It was a pain they had to deal with to cut costs. With no limits on the number of collaborators, GitHub’s free plan may mean that some can move all of their repositories to a single home. Even if they wanted to upgrade to the Team plan for access to more tools, the reduced cost may be worth it if they prefer working with GitHub.

The biggest change is there is no initial cost barrier for teams that are kicking off a private project with no funding on hand. This is a good thing for small businesses.