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Category Direction - Source Code Management

Source Code Management

Last updated: 2021-05-05

Section Stage Maturity Last Reviewed
Dev Create Loveable 2020-12-15

Introduction and how you can help

The Source Code Management direction page belongs to the Source Code group of the Create stage, and is maintained by Sarah Waldner, who can be reached at

This direction is a work in progress, and everyone can contribute. Please comment and contribute in the linked issues and epics. Sharing your feedback directly on is the best way to contribute to our strategy and vision.


Source Code Management provides the core workflows and controls for teams to collaborate using Git to build great software, including repository view, protected branches, code owners, merge request approvals, and mirroring.

Performance indicators

The primary performance indicator (PI) for our group is the number of unique users writing to a project Git repository. We want to ensure all the features in our group provide a great experience that ultimately will allow everyone to contribute more often. A great experience in our group is a critical starting point for this.

Aligning with our SaaS first and product depth direction, we are also working to make performance our secondary indicator (see related issue). The intent here is to track the most heavily used services in our group and track how they improve over time. We firmly believe speed is the killer feature and as such will work to provide a speedy experience to set a great stage for new and existing users.

See more detail in the Create:Source Code PI page section.

Target Audience

Source code management targets mainly software engineers but also anyone who is contributing to any types of project. To that end, we target all the user personas we describe in our handbook, with a special focus on the following:

User journeys

The Source Code Management category is expansive and encompasses a broad set of features. Which features are leveraged, how they are leveraged, and to what extent greatly depends on the size of development team and the complexity of the product that they are building. We find that as the team size grows, as does the complexity of the software product. For these reasons, it is challenging to define a single user journey that captures how our users move through Source Code. That being said, there are five main buckets we can use to group the jobs to be done of our users. Understanding this general workflow helps to focus product development and discovery when exploring how to streamline the Source Code experience


We intend to define and document the user journeys our specific personas take and how those differ based on the size of the development and the industry in which they work.

Connection between Source Code Management and Code Review

The Source Code category of GitLab offers the features where the creative process begins. Here authors will not only consume existing project contents but will also author new content that will eventually move through the DevOps lifecycle. Additionally, many of the features in Source Code are consumed in the Code Review stage of the software developement lifecycle. Consider the following examples:

Because of this close relationship, the Source Code Management group must work closely with the Code Review group in order to ensure the developer experience is cohesive and efficient. This experience is core to providing a great first impression for users.

Where we are Headed

Building great software depends on teams working well together. Teams can rarely be divided into areas of complete independence. As cross-functional security, compliance and growth teams are formed, or new services and libraries are created, effective coordination and collaboration is a must. This is true whether using a single monolithic repository, or spread across numerous smaller services and libraries.

Teams require the controls to protect production while making it easy for everyone contribute. This means providing more granular and dynamic controls so that low risk changes can be made easily, and only the highest risk changes require the strictest controls.

When building software, teams greatly benefit from using open-source projects and may even submit contributions upstream. However, the balance of contribution vs. consumption is askew, partly because of a lack of controlled upstream workflows. Particularly from closed projects.

Upstreaming contributions from private repositories to a public upstream should be simple and safe, even for conservative organizations. Whether the upstream repository is on the same GitLab server, is hosted on, or managed via a mailing list.

Critical Product Principles

GitLab maintains a set of Product Principles, some of which are more critical to be aware of in the Source Code category. Here they are, and why the are critical:

What's Next & Why

What is Not Planned Right Now

Maturity Plan

This category is currently at the Loveable maturity level (see our definitions of maturity levels).

However, specific aspects are not yet loveable:

Competitive Landscape

Important competitors are GitHub and Perforce, and increasingly Azure DevOps.

For public open source projects, GitHub is our primary competitor, with millions of active users having chosen GitHub before the first version of GitLab ever existed.

In most source code management capabilities GitLab compares favorably to GitHub, the most notable exception being the maturity of forking workflows which GitHub pioneered. GitHub has a highly polished and fast product, which makes tasks like browsing and managing projects fast and easy.

For users of SVN (Apache Subversion) intending to migrate to Git, GitHub is a significant competitor, particularly because GitHub supports hosting SVN repositories.

Perforce competes with GitLab primarily on its ability to support enormous repositories, however, Perforce also competes on the basis of being a Centralized Version Control System. This means that Perforce not only supports granular write permissions, but granular read permissions on a branch and file path basis. While fine grained read permissions are important to some customers, large monolithic repositories may be split into smaller repositories allowing read controls and easier management.

Analyst Landscape

Large file support (see Gitaly direction) is an ongoing area of interest because it blocks certain segments of software development from using Git.

Similarly extremely large repository support (see Gitaly direction) is also an area of interest for the same reason.

Top Customer Success/Sales issue(s)

The most frequent category of request is for improved support for finer grained controls, so that policies can be enforced at key points in the workflow, and more permissive permissions can be granted at other times.

Top user issue(s)

Top dogfooding issues

Top Vision Item(s)

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