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The writing is on the wall for Subversion as Git takes over

This time last year, the Eclipse Community Survey noted that Git’s market share had risen from 12.8% to 27.6%, while Subversion had dropped from a seemingly unassailable 51.3% to 46.0%. This year’s survey results, published yesterday, note that this trend has continued: Git/GitHub has risen to 36.3% while Subversion has dropped to 37.8%. Subversion may still be in the top slot for now, but its lead is tiny and it is rapidly losing ground.

Other data sources, such as itjobswatch.co.uk, paint a similar picture. Look at how demand for Git skills has grown in recent years:

Git demand according to itjobswatch.co.uk

Job trackers such as this tend to give Subversion a bigger lead, because they focus on the rather more conservative corporate market and purposely ignore the world of hobbyists and open source developers. But even so, the trend is clear. Thirteen percent of UK programming jobs now ask for Git experience. Seventeen percent ask for Subversion, but the gap is narrowing rapidly and it is almost certain now that Git will overtake Subversion in corporate settings by the end of this year.

We are now fast approaching the point at which not using Git will increasingly hurt developers and companies alike. As a developer, a lack of Git experience is now starting to call into question your willingness and ability to keep your skills up to date. As a company, if you don’t use Git, you will find yourself competing for good developers against companies who do. Once you’ve got used to Git, Subversion is a painful experience, and fewer and fewer competent developers will be prepared to put up with it given the choice.

Then there are third party products and services. Already we are seeing an increasing number of these coming on the market which only support Git — GitHub and Heroku being two prominent examples. Those that do support other alternatives are increasingly treating them as an afterthought, with only limited features. Even if you’re a Microsoft-only shop, Git is getting harder to avoid. Entity Framework and ASP.NET MVC, along with several other Microsoft-run projects, are now hosted using Git. Team Foundation Server is introducing Git as a first-class source control option, complete with the tight end to end integration experience which TFS users value so much. Windows Azure makes Git one of its main avenues for deployment.

Not only has Subversion fallen behind, its development is painfully slow. Subversion 1.7, originally scheduled for the spring of 2010, was only released in October 2011 — a year and a half late. Subversion 1.8 is also a year late and has had its scope cut back by a half. Subversion 1.9, tentatively slated for this time next year, could well see even more significant delays, especially if the shift in demand forces its key players to divert resources to Git-based products and services. Subversion 1.10, the first to promise some genuinely useful new features (shelving and checkpointing), is “speculatively at best” scheduled for mid-2015. It is quite possible that it may never be released.

Subversion has no future. It is old, obsolete, decrepit technology and you need to be planning for its end of life. Git, on the other hand, is rapidly becoming the lingua franca of source control throughout the entire software industry. Love it or hate it, but if you don’t take it seriously, it won’t be long before the industry doesn’t take you seriously.


  • # Reply from Habeeb Hassan Syed at 07:47 on 11 Aug 2013

    Good post!
    All is good but I don’t agree with you that Subversion has no future. I do not endorse any thing but the following does give a good picture ( http://gitenterprise.me/2013/08/06/git-vs-subversion-an-executive-decision-guide/ ). There are cases when Subversion is just enough for your work.

  • # Reply from James McKay at 08:27 on 11 Aug 2013

    The post you’ve linked to quotes a figure of 50+% for Subversion’s market share. That is out of date according to every data point that I’ve seen. As I said above, the Eclipse Community Survey reports that Subversion’s market share has dropped from 58% to 38% in three years. The statistics from itjobswatch.co.uk require a bit of number crunching, but they currently work out at Subversion 37.4%, Git 29.0%, TFS 22.6%, others 11%. In June 2012, they were Subversion 45.3%, TFS 21.3% and Git 16.2%.

    So…Subversion may still be in the lead for now, but it does appear to be losing ground as far as I can see.

  • # Reply from James McKay at 08:35 on 11 Aug 2013

    Incidentally, here’s how I calculated those figures from itjobswatch.co.uk: I added up the number of jobs for every SCM system that I could find on the site (Subversion 3018, Git 2339, TFS 1822, VSS 326, Mercurial 201, ClearCase 182, Perforce 159, Borland StarTeam 14, AccuRev 12 and Bazaar 0) and took the individual figures as percentages of the total (8073).

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