Mercurial vs Git « 503 Service Unavailable

Edit from 2009-04-10: as time passes and I receive feedback, this article is being refined and modified subtly to remove typos, make concepts more clear, or clarify when something is not really needed. Special thanks to Martin Geisler for pointing out my mistakes related to Mercurial.

There are many blog posts and articles all over the Internet providing comparisons between Git and Mercurial. Most of them only briefly describe the main differences and then try to decide which one is better. However, I didn’t find many articles explaining the differences in detail from a neutral point of view and that’s what I’ll try to do here, also providing links to relevant documentation. For simple uses like a single user managing a private project, Git and Mercurial are equivalent. Their workflow differs a little due to the underlying differences, but their usage doesn’t seem to be very far apart. However, those differences start being noticeable when you collaborate with more users and, the more complex the project is, the more you will notice them. Hopefully, this information could be useful to Mercurial users wanting to know how Git works and vice versa, as well as novice users who are not using either one yet. In that case, I suggest you to experiment a little bit with both instead of trying to make a theorethical decision based on what you read in the documentation or in articles like this one. I will focus on four main aspects.

  1. The repository structure, that is, how each one of them record changes and history.
  2. The noticeable differences in how they manage the branching process.
  3. Documentation.
  4. Their two popular hosting sites, GitHub and Bitbucket.