If I have a public repo under a free plan what constraints (if any) are there regarding the clone (through git) frequencies? I'm guessing the constraint is not enforced by the API rate-limit one.
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There are currently no specific limits to cloning a repository other than if your usage gets so high that it starts affecting our ability to provide service to others then we will respond in order to keep a good experience for all users.
A (bad) example of a cloning usage pattern that should be avoided is having very large CI jobs doing thousands of clones of different branches of a single repository continuously.
On the other hand, it is perfectly normal for individuals to manually clone a repository whenever they need it, or to set up typical CI jobs that clone and run against a single branch when commits are pushed.