Among the many announcements from LinuxWorld this week is this one
from VA Software stating that the SourceForge software would be adapted to
work with a number of proprietary IBM products, including the DB2 database
manager and WebSphere. VA and IBM will also cooperate in the marketing of
each other's products. Oh, and, incidentally, OSDN (owned by VA) has announced
will be converted
over to run DB2 exclusively.
This arrangement does not lack its good features. SourceForge becomes more
interoperable and gains a new marketing channel. No details have been
released, of course, but it is reasonable to expect that IBM will help
support SourceForge.net's continued existence as part of this deal. Given
the obvious cost of running a facility like SourceForge and the number of
free software projects which depend on it, this is good news for the free
The fact remains, however, that SourceForge is moving steadily away from
free software. The site itself has not been pure free software for some
time, and is now becoming a showcase for IBM's proprietary applications.
There has not been a release of the SourceForge site code - the free part -
since November, 2001. References to "open source" are most rare on the VA
Software web site. Even the VA Software products
FAQ shows an interesting emphasis:
Q: What platform (hardware/software) does SourceForge run on?
SourceForge runs on SPARC based Solaris servers using Solaris
version 8 10/01 and higher. SourceForge also runs on Red Hat Linux
versions 7.1 and higher on Intel processor-based platforms.
"Also runs" is better than nothing...
Almost exactly one year ago, Eric Raymond posted a message
on how SourceForge wasn't really going proprietary:
So the real news here is that VA is still about open source -- if I
didn't believe that, I'd be off their board of directors so fast it
would make your head spin. We're just being pragmatic about how we
sell the idea. Change peoples' behavior first, show them the
advantages in doing so, and their hearts and minds will follow.
Given that, it is interesting to note that Mr. Raymond's name has been
quietly dropped from VA's Board of Directors
We are, thus, in a position where a large portion of the free software
community's work is hosted on a site owned by a company that no longer sees
free software as part of its mission. The concentration of projects onto a
single site (any single site) has been a cause of concern for some
time; now it makes the community's position look truly precarious.
SourceForge is still useful to VA as a demonstration of the scale on which
its software can work. But it's an expensive advertisement which is
increasingly being turned to the interests of those who are paying the
bills. SourceForge remains a valuable contribution to the free software
community, as it has been for years. But the need for alternatives (beyond
Savannah and Berios, which are a good start)
is more urgent than ever.
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