James Maguire has written a great article tracing the history of SourceForge, one that is well worth reading, if for no other reason than to get some historical context for one of open source's enduring treasures. SourceForge has become creaky in its eight years, and hasn't kept up with the times in many ways (causing several would-be anchor tenants to host their projects elsewhere).
But it's still a fantastic tool for any new open-source project, and hence the place where most open-source projects are born.
Back in 1999, the folks at VA Linux were just crazy enough to think launching a site for open-source projects was a good idea:
When [VA Linux] went public in December (symbol: LNUX), its stock rocketed from $30 to almost $240 in one day ? a delirious 700 percent return. [Matt's note: I tried desperately to get shares for this. I failed. :-) ]Amid these dizzying champagne fortunes, the company had an idea. A wildly optimistic idea.
It decided to launch a Web site to host the work of open source software developers. The site would offer a full box of tools, from a Concurrent Versioning System (CVS) to a bug tracker to mailing lists. And the site would be ? in the spirit of 1999 ? totally free of charge.
How, exactly, the site would pay for itself was presumably not fully figured out. At first glance, offering a free service to people who were themselves working for free didn?t sound like a goldmine. But no worries. If it involved technology, it had to profitable, right?
Well, no, as the company has only recently started to make decent money from the site (or, as it were, from the site's underlying platform). But that's hardly the point: SourceForge offers tremendous value to open-source developers and to those who benefit from their projects.
People like you. Like me. Like Microsoft. Like Citigroup.
Spend five minutes reading about how SourceForge came to be, and the hiccups its had along the way. We are all its beneficiaries.