while true live

Musings on the fatality of infinite loops and other stuff.

Why Git Is Better Than SVN... Or Is It?

I don’t know the numbers of SVN users vs. Git users but in any case there are still many companies out there using SVN (probably more than using Git?!) The question is: Why shouldn’t they? Does Git actually provide enough benefits which are worth the hassle of migrating? If yes, how would you convince a SVN user? Have you experienced that you couldn’t comprehensively convince an SVN advocate of Git’s superiority although you’re absolutely sure of it? Or more generally: How to best convince anybody to use another technology?

“git svn differences”

It’s interesting to actually google “git svn differences” and to skim the results you get. The links I got led to some texts which rather ‘objectively’ enumerate the core differences, however, there are also some which clearly try to persuade the reader of Git’s benefits. Anyway, in both types of text the core differences tend to be the following:

  • Git is faster
  • Branching is cheaper
  • Git is distributed, SVN is centralized

Funnily enough, quite often I stumbled across what I call the tale of the ‘Hermit Programmer’ scenario: The programmer has no connection to the SVN server and can’t commit therefore (imagine yourself miles away from civilization and your life depends on the ability to commit just now… for whatever reason?!), whereas the programmer could commit to their local repository if they used Git. Hooray! Hooray! Well, seriously… it’s a nice story but would it make you shutdown your working SVN infrastructure in favor of Git, in view of the complexity of migrating all repos, the need of learning Git commands and your coworkers’ anger when you tell them that they now need to learn Git because some commands run faster?

Wrong ways of advertising Git

Obviously, all the above arguments are valid but they are not really convincing enough to persuade anyone to replace SVN with Git. Imagine a conversation between a Git fan and a SVN user:

Git fan: Hey! You know, Git is really better, it works much faster!

SVN user: Ah, I don’t care. SVN is fast enough for me. I commit once a day, that takes a few seconds, so no problem at all…

Git fan: Anyway, it’s not only faster, it also takes less disk space, especially branches!

SVN user: Branches?! Ah, I don’t even remember the last time I created a branch. I know, theoretically you could create “feature branches” but we don’t do this at work. Why should we? Anyway, we have enough storage in any case.

Git fan: Well, you know, [dramatic pause as now comes his ‘killer argument’], Git is distributed, so everybody has a local repository and the whole project history. So it can’t get lost when a central server crashes!

SVN User: No problem, we create daily backups of all our repositories.

The alternative

When I express my favorite Git features (and I’m somehow convinced that those actually represent the quintessence of Git’s benefits over SVN in daily use) it sounds like that:

  • You can rewrite your history with Git!
  • You have “pull requests” for Open Source projects collaboration!
  • A branch is just a reference to a commit!
  • Instead of merging you can ‘rebase’ a branch on another!

This time the above SVN User just wouldn’t understand the meaning of my arguments! I would need to first explain all that concepts in detail and I’d need to introduce the workflows which are easily possible using Git and impossible or a pain in SVN… that lengthy talk doesn’t go nicely with our initial goal of convincing our vis-à-vis with some quick bullet point arguments, obviously. So it seems like we can’t have it all. Unless you have some ideas.


If you really want to convey Git’s benefits to a fellow SVN coworker you need to take your time. You need to show the features, you should give examples and everyday scenarios where Git’s capabilities make work at lot easier. Believe me, such insights weigh a lot more than purely rational arguments like Git is faster!