Slashdot Media, which owns the popular websites SourceForge and Slashdot, has been sold to SourceForge Media, LLC, a subsidiary of web publisher BIZX, LLC. Financial terms of the sale were not revealed in the press release announcing the sale, which was published today on the website EIN News.
This afternoon I exchanged a few emails with Logan Abbott who is one of the owners of BIZX and the president of the SourceForge Media subsidiary which he said “was formed for the purposes of this transaction.”
“We’re excited about the synergies this acquisition brings and see both our existing operation and the Slashdot Media business benefiting significantly as a combined entity,” he said. “We’re also excited about the prospects of better serving our customers, developers, enthusiasts, and user communities.”
I asked Abbott about the company’s plans for the sites going forward. Slashdot, of course, has a rich history in all areas of tech, including FOSS, and continues to be surrounded by a sizable community, although in recent years that community seems to have shrunk somewhat. Slashdot regulars will be relieved to know that according to Abbott, no drastic changes are immediately in the works.
“Our plans for Slashdot include supporting the mission of Slashdot’s slogan, ‘news for nerds, stuff that matters,'” he said. “The site has millions of loyal users that visit and engage on the site each month, and we want to do the things necessary to keep Slashdot positioned as the best technology-centric news and discussion site on the web. We do not plan any radical changes, and will keep the opinions of the Slashdot user base in mind at all times.”
When I mentioned the perception held by some that Slashdot’s online importance seems to be on the wane and suggested that the site perhaps has “lost its luster,” Abbott disagreed. “Well, I’m not sure I completely agree that Slashdot is less vital these days or has lost its luster,” he replied. “It serves millions of unique viewers each month, which we think is pretty significant.
“We see the Slashdot community as a vibrant community made up of industry professionals and enthusiasts that are extremely passionate about tech, tech news and discussion, many of which have been active and engaged for over a decade,” he added.
“What impressed us about Slashdot was the quality of the typical community member and how truly informed and educated they were on a wide variety of discussion topics that directly relate to today’s relevant tech news. There’s a lot more noise on the Internet now than there was when Slashdot was created, but we think the Slashdot user base is one of the most knowledgeable and informed communities anywhere on the web. We ultimately plan to listen to the community.”
All this goodwill towards the user community might be coming at a cost, however. I’ve heard reports from credible sources of layoffs at Slashdot, with many longtime employees being shown the door, with their jobs either eliminated or handed over to less costly and relatively inexperienced staff. Goodwill or no, this can’t have a positive effect on the site’s users’ experience. We can expect that the same cost cutting is probably happening at SourceForge, which is already struggling.
SourceForge, of course, was once the go-to code repository for FOSS projects. In recent years, however, the site has been having problems keeping projects — open source and otherwise — on board. This has partly been due to the rise of competition, specifically GitHub, but the site’s owners have also made some missteps along the way which have hurt Sourceforge’s reputation. Onsite advertising seen as deceptive and the inclusion of proprietary “free trial” software in Windows downloads of FOSS software has led many projects such as GIMP to leave the site and find other means of distribution.
Although some might think that SourceForge’s reputation has been too tarnished to continue as a viable code repository, Abbott said he sees it differently. “We absolutely plan to keep SourceForge as code repository,” he said, “but in more general terms, as a trusted destination for open source software discovery, development, collaboration and distribution.
“When I say trusted – I mean trusted,” he went on. “We disagree with some of the previous monetization strategies from an industry and business perspective, and have immediate plans to discontinue programs inconsistent with our being a trusted and reliable resource for the entire open source community. I think large and small project developers will quickly see that we are very serious about supporting their long term needs and that the industry will see we’re more interested in doing the right thing than making a few extra short term dollars.”
When I asked how he planned to compete with GitHub, now pretty much the industry standard and competition that didn’t exist back when SourceForge was on top of the heap, he replied without mentioning the competition by name: “We’re going to focus on the needs of our developers and site visitors by enhancing the SourceForge feature set while taking steps to ensure both developers and users see SourceForge as a trusted destination.”
Indeed, he promised to return SourceForge to its glory days, not only by undoing the harm that’s been done, but by bringing rapid development and much needed improvements to the site’s infrastructure.
“With SourceForge, our plans all surround returning the site to being the ‘gold standard’ and most trusted destination for open source software discovery, development, collaboration and distribution on the web. We will improve and accelerate development of useful open source software developer tools in addition to rekindling the original spirit of open source that made SourceForge an industry leader.”
That might be a big bite to chew. One thing is certain: Both the users at Slashdot and the open source developer communities will be keeping a close eye on developments around this sale. So will we at FOSS Force.
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