GitLab's Duo Chat proves there's still plenty of ground to claim in the AI coding market

Phone with AI symbol on screen in front of GitLab branding
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GitLab has announced the general availability of its coding assistant GitLab Duo Chat, as it aims to challenge GitHub Copilot in the AI pair programming space.

Duo Chat brings together GitLab’s Duo suite of AI capabilities into one natural language chat interface.

GitLab launched its Duo Suite in June 2023, promising a range of new features to assist DevSecOps teams, including code suggestions, vulnerability descriptions, issue summaries, and more. 

The company said these features would all become available via Duo Chat over the course of 2023, which was made available in beta in November that year.

Duo Chat is now generally available within the GitLab user interface, including GitLab’s Web IDE, as well as inside other popular IDEs such as VS Code and the JetBrains suite of developer environments.

Alongside the rollout of Duo Chat, GitLab announced it would be making three GitLab Duo capabilities generally available alongside the chat interface. These include helping devs parse code explanations, refactoring, and test generation. 

These features will help users parse unfamiliar code snippets, modernize existing code, and automate test writing, which it said will enable developers to identify and remediate bugs quicker.

In an announcement, GitLab said Duo Chat will be particularly useful for developers undergoing onboarding, where devs can get help with general knowledge questions such as how to get started with popular frameworks or how to reset their GitLab password.

However, the company stressed that all of the Duo AI features will be available with access controls so that organizations have total control over sensitive data at the project, sub-group, and group level.

Duo Chat is available as part of GitLat Duo Pro, which users can purchase for $19 per user per month.

GitLab Duo Chat is well placed to catch developers’ interest

GitLab Duo Chat enters a relatively crowded market with GitHub Copilot, Amazon CodeWhisperer, and Gemini Code Assist, all of which are already available for users to try.

A survey conducted by Gartner found 63% of organizations were piloting, deploying, or had already deployed AI coding assistants by Q3 2023. This marks a drastic increase in demand for these tools, compared to the 10% of devs that were using coding assistants at the beginning of 2023. 

As such, the race is on to become the pair programming assistant of choice, and GitLab Duo Chat has its work cut out for it, with competing solutions with hyperscaler backing getting a head start in the market. 

GitHub Copilot was made generally available in February 2023, and gained over 1 million paid subscribers across more than 37,000 organizations by October 2023, according to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.


Speaking to ITPro, Martin Røed, CTO & co-founder at AI software company Databutton, said GitLab – like GitHub – is in a good position to get a lot of users adopting its new chatbot quickly as it is meeting developers where they are, integrating Duo Chat their preexisting workstream.

“As a one-stop-shop development platform, GitLab has a unique relationship with its developers and their workflows, very similar to GitHub. GitLab’s potential to radically improve the more complex and difficult part of their workflow with LLMs is very appealing as they can integrate it fully into their stack.”

Technically, GitLab Duo Chat appears to be on a par with GitHub Copilot, according to Røed, but how the models are adapted over the next few years will be the real indicator of their success.

“The Duo Chat is largely using the Claude 2 model from Anthropic. If they don't already, I'm sure they'll also leverage the Claude 3 Opus model in cases where it makes sense; this is a very similar model-set from a technical-spec point of view as to what GitHub Copilot is using (GPT 3-4). The biggest differences will very likely come from how they evolve their chat agents over time.”

When asked about how he thinks GitLab’s solution will compete with GitHub Copilot, Røed was optimistic despite Copilot’s sizable head start in the code assistant space.

He noted the field remains relatively immature, speculating that the solution that is best integrated into existing developer tools will offer the most value to businesses.

“Similarly to how the code repository space is not a winner-takes-all, there's room for more than one player in the code-generation space for developers. Despite code generation being the most widely adopted LLM use case for now (with customer support being a good second), it's important to remember that we're still in the early phase of integrating this technology into the real world," he explained.

“As we move past benchmarks and the ‘best’ raw LLMs, the real gain will be how they are integrated into their existing suite of tools, and how much it will enhance the real-world development flow.”

Solomon Klappholz
Staff Writer

Solomon Klappholz is a Staff Writer at ITPro. He has experience writing about the technologies that facilitate industrial manufacturing which led to him developing a particular interest in IT regulation, industrial infrastructure applications, and machine learning.