December 10, 1999 5:35 PM PST

Open-source programming sites go live

Two Web sites for helping companies fund open-source programming projects launched within the span of two days this week.

Sourcexchange, the main project of a company called Collab.net, began official operations just a day after competitor Cosource went live.

The sites are set up to act as the middleman between open-source programmers looking for work and companies who need programming done but don't want to devote their own personnel to the task. Both will have to compete for attention with Open Avenue, which has won the confidence of database company Oracle and is seeking investment funding, and Free Software Bazaar which has been in operation for months.

Collab.net was the idea of Hewlett-Packard and book publisher O'Reilly and Associates, but venture firm Benchmark Capital has stepped in with an investment of its own.

The site employs Brian Behlendorf, an open-source programmer who helped to start the Apache Web server project. In October, the company got a chief executive with the arrival of Bill Portelli, former general manager of consulting services for design software firm Cadence.

In open-source programming, software developers may freely share and distribute their work, and some believe this openness results in a collective effort that can squash the proprietary, closely guarded methods employed by Microsoft and most traditional software companies.

However, open-source programming has been limited by the fact that the programmers only will work for projects in which they have a particular interest, leaving important but dull details incomplete. The open-source sites such as Sourcexchange are banking that the profit motive will help introduce other motivations.

Sourcexchange, while in beta testing, has housed several projects. One of the more prominent projects at the site has to do with HP's E-speak, software that can negotiate deals electronically and which HP hopes will spread rapidly because of its open-source nature. HP released the E-speak source code this week, the company said.

Other projects at Sourcexchange include work funded by Novell, Ricoh, Galactic Marketing, Sparks.com and Walnut Creek CDROM, the company said.

Novell is seeking work that will tie its Novell Directory Service software in with the Apache Web server. Sparks.com, an online greeting card company, is in search of Java software that will let it record, monitor and retrieve information sent to the company over the Internet.

Though Cosource beat Sourcexchange out the door, Sourcexchange has more developers, according to figures from the companies. Where Cosource has 1181 companies and devlopers signed up, Sourcexchange has 3,200.

Cosource has some unusual projects of its own, including a request to port Kaffe, an open-source clone of Sun Microsystems' Java software, to the BeOS operating system. Kaffe was developed by a company called Transvirtual.

 

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