What’s the difference between a pull request and a branch?

A pull request and a branch are both concepts in version control systems like Git, but they serve different purposes and play distinct roles in the collaborative development process.


In version control systems, a branch is a separate line of development that allows developers to work on new features, bug fixes, or experiments without affecting the main codebase (often called the “master” or “main” branch). Branches are lightweight and quick to create, making them ideal for isolating changes.

When a developer creates a branch, it creates a snapshot of the code at that point in time. Any changes made on the branch do not affect the master branch or other branches until they are explicitly merged back. This isolation allows multiple developers to work concurrently on different features without conflicts.

Pull Request:

A pull request is a mechanism for proposing changes made in one branch (usually a feature branch) to be merged into another branch, often the main branch (e.g., master). It is a way to request that others review and approve the changes before they become part of the main codebase.

When a developer finishes work on a branch and wants to integrate those changes into the main branch, they create a pull request. The pull request contains the details of the changes made, and other team members can review the code, provide feedback, and discuss any potential issues before the changes are merged.

The term “pull request” is primarily associated with Git-based platforms like GitHub, GitLab, and Bitbucket, where developers submit pull requests through a web interface. In other version control systems like Subversion (SVN), this process is typically referred to as a “merge request” or “patch.”

In summary, a branch is a separate line of development used to isolate changes, while a pull request is a way to propose and discuss merging those changes into another branch, usually the main branch. Pull requests facilitate code review and collaboration, helping to ensure that only high-quality code is integrated into the main codebase.

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