When it comes to modern, open-source distributed SCM systems, it’s really a battle between Git and Mercurial. While both of these projects are popular already, Git has found its champion in GitHub and a cavalcade of dedicated users. Mercurial, on the other hand, has remained popular, though without a major sponsor. Atlassian changed all of that today by purchasing Bitbucket.org.

Bitbucket is a code repository hosting service along the lines of GitHub and SourceForge. But Bitbucket is based on Mercurial. Atlassian’s decision to purchase the company came from its lack of an SCM system within its development tool chain.

“We do believe it’s a pretty obvious acquisition,” said Jay Simons, vice president of sales and marketing at Atlassian. “A small team that’s starting out needs a place to dump code and a place to keep track of what’s going on. We built a business on the latter, but we haven’t had a place for developers to put code.”

With the purchase of Bitbucket, Simons said Atlassian is gaining a team of Mercurial experts. That move also heralds a future for the company based on Mercurial, though Atlassian’s tools will still remain SCM agnostic, said Simons.

“We’ve taken a really close look at Mercurial and Git, and we believe that Mercurial is a better technology for enterprise adoption and enterprise version control,” said Simons. “We’re making an investment in Bitbucket and Mercurial across our tools, but we want to be agnostic. We support both Git and Mercurial today in our products.”

After the acquisition is complete and the Bitbucket site comes back online later tonight, Atlassian will be changing the pricing structure for the service, said Simons.

“If you look at most of the code collaboration services on the Web, they let you dump your code there if you have an open-source project,” he said. “One thing we’re announcing is that the pricing model will change. We’re turning it on its head. Instead of charging for a number of private repositories or the amount of storage you use, we’re going to charge based on the number of developers that use the service.

“It’s free for a five-developer account, with unlimited private and public storage. It’s free for open-source projects, too. If you want to take a project private and have 10 people who work on that code, it will be $1 per person per month.”

Overall, said Simons, this acquisition is a direct result of Atlassian’s recent round of funding by Accel Partners. That money allowed the purchase of Bitbucket, and Simons said it will help to meet the company’s ultimate goal: “What Adobe does for designers, we want to do for technical teams building something.”