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The Long Death Of Project Hosting Sites

Last month, Microsoft and Google bypassed their own code hosts to post major code projects on GitHub. The once-favored hosts have begun a long, familiar decline.

Project hosting sites move in and out of popularity in much the same way that programming languages do. They become suddenly popular, the place to host for cool new projects; then they mature into wide but less enthusiastic use; and finally, they begin a long decline in which they increasingly are associated with legacy projects.

Because the highest visibility hosts today -- GitHub and its predecessor in the top position, SourceForge -- both are offshoots of companies that sell code-hosting services, it's easy to forget that most hosts did not and do not have material commercial benefits to derive from hosting open source.

In fact, in the early days, such hosting was seen more as a service to a community than a profitable activity. Often, the hosts were created as the centerpieces of developer communities. The Apache Software Foundation is one such community and is still very active. Another is Codehaus, a site purpose-designed by a group of hackers (Bob McWhirter, Jason van Zyl, and later Ben Walding) to host their projects and those of like-minded developers. Codehaus, in particular, provided more than just code hosting: email support, continuous integration, and other services. By offering what was then a very rare compliment of services completely free, it was able to attract top projects, including Drools, Groovy, Maven, and others.

Read the rest of this article on Dr. Dobb's.

Prior to joining Dr. Dobb's Journal, Andrew Binstock worked as a technology analyst, as well as a columnist for SD Times, a reviewer for InfoWorld, and the editor of UNIX Review. Before that, he was a senior manager at Price Waterhouse. He began his career in software ... View Full Bio

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User Rank: Ninja
12/10/2014 | 8:06:52 PM
Re: A developer community is a valuable asset
I'm sure that by buiding this community GitHub has been able to make a business out of what they do. But I can see in the beginning this would have been a major stretch for them. 

Code hosting in its early days was something for people who had a need for a more community-like way of software development. Now, it's probably a bigger business than most of us realize. 
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
12/10/2014 | 6:18:29 PM
Re: A developer community is a valuable asset
Sometimes you just have to jump around on stage like a maniac shouting, "Developers, developers developers...!" to make a point.
Charlie Babcock
Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
12/10/2014 | 4:50:10 PM
A developer community is a valuable asset
Nice assessment of the predictable stages of project hosting. Microsoft is once again showing that it can learn new tricks. A devoted developer community is such a valuable thing these days that I'm surprised at how consistently those who have one allow them to fall into a predictable decline. I think their owners must have been too busy fighting battles elsewhere to realize they were ignoring the shrinkage of a considerable asset.
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