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June 20th, 2016

SourceForge Seeks a Return to Relevancy

The new owners of SourceForge, once the primary code repository for open source projects, work to make good on a promise to restore a reputation that was tarnished by its former owners.

It’s been about 2 1/2 years since GIMP began what became something of a mass exodus of large open source projects away from SourceForge, which at one time had been the go-to code repository for open source projects.

The site’s reputation began to wane almost immediately after it was purchased from Geeknet in September, 2012, by Dice Holdings in a deal that included Slashdot and Freecode/Freshmeat. In July, 2013, Dice introduced DevShare, an optional profit sharing feature that included closed-source ad-supported content in the binary Windows installers and gave projects agreeing to use the feature a portion of the revenue.

Predictably, the move was not met with open arms by FOSS supporters, and four months later the developers of the photo manipulation program GIMP left the service. In announcing the move, GIMP said its decision was based on the DevShare program as well as deceptive and confusing “download here” advertisements that tricked some users into thinking the ads were, in fact, the place to select a project’s download. Much later, in 2015, GIMP complained that the site was hosting infected versions of its Windows binaries on SourceForge’s Open Source Mirror directory.

GIMP’s exodus was followed by other notable projects, including Nmap and Videolabs, the later being the developer of the VLC media player which had once been SourceForge’s most downloaded project.

But, as the song says, that was then, this is now.

In January, Dice sold SourceForge, Slashdot and Freecode to BIZX, LLC and the new owners began making moves almost immediately to regain the public’s trust and to return relevancy to the site. On February 10, only thirteen days after the purchase, it was announced that the DevShare program had been ended as a “first order of business” by the new owners. Three months later, on May 17, it was announced that the malware issue brought up by GIMP a year earlier was being dealt with by implementing malware scans in partnership with security firms Bitdefender and ESET.

The new management has also been adding useful new features to the site, beginning with the introduction of Speed Test, an HTML 5 based application that supplies users with information about their Internet connections without the use of Java or Flash.

On Friday, SourceForge’s Logan Abbott told FOSS Force the site has also been diligently working to remove deceptive ads and has impremented a tool that can be used by users to report ads they think are deceptive.

“Our deceptive ad reporting tool is live,” he said. “It allows users to report any ad they feel is deceptive or bad by clicking on the ‘Report a problem with ad content’ that appears under every ad on the site.”

He further stated that his team has been working on getting rid of deceptive ads for some time. “We have a full time team member dedicated to eliminating these [deceptive ads] and the vast majority were already eliminated. This tool is just an extra safeguard for ads that sneak in through ad networks.”

SourceForge deceptive add reporting tool.

SourceForge deceptive add reporting tool.

The new owners have also made it easier for projects on GitHub to utilize the site as an additional resource. “We have a GitHub importer tool that will import projects from GitHub to SourceForge for developers who want an extra distribution channel,” Abbott explained. “It will also sync new releases that are uploaded to GitHub over to SourceForge so your project is up to date.”

The importing tool comes with directions both for importing to a new SourceForge project or for importing to an existing project, and includes a video tutorial on its use.

It appears that the folks at SourceForge Media, the subsidiary of BIZX that runs the site, are determined to do everything they can to turn SourceForge around. Although times have changed since the days when the site was the preeminent open source code repository, I suspect it will find its footing as a viable alternative and again become a valuable resource for developers.

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Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

9 comments to SourceForge Seeks a Return to Relevancy

  • Mike S.

    It would be interesting to see the revenue figures for Sourceforge at its most evil (deceptive) relative to its expenses.

    I have a tiny bit of sympathy if the company was hemorrhaging cash due to storage and bandwidth costs and desperately trying to offset the difference. If, on the other hand, it was comfortably in the black and just trying to create a cash cow then I have no sympathy.

    I want the new site to succeed simply because I think the Github monoculture is dangerous to open source and free software. The world should have many popular – ideally fully open source – source code hosting platforms, not just one.

  • Mike, you are right on the money AFAIAK. I too have seen looming red ink approaching my ledgers and I know how easy it would be to do most anything legally to forestall insolvency.

    ” want the new site to succeed simply because I think the Github monoculture is dangerous to open source and free software.”

    This is the most important take away from this article. competition will drive the quality of most any service. That seems like almost a natural law.

  • Chris

    Mike, Sourceforge had a good profit from beginning. Just in case you didn’t notice they pay almost nothing for bandwidth, check their mirrors and you will see they use only Internet related ISP and University mirrors – all providing special servers for their needs.

    They did tried to increase the profit all the time. The new management did good things but anyone noticed the new pop-up ‘Get latest updates about Open Source Projects, Conferences and News.’? I was already subscribed and they already send more offers. The new management is focused on making money, the only difference between them and the old guys is that the new ones are looking to monetize while trying to stay ‘under the radar’.

    No need to trust them, plenty of alternatives to choose from – Github, Gitlab, Fosshub, Launchpad, Bitbucket, Redmine are only a few – others are coming fast.

  • Don Brown

    Hello my Foss Force Friends. I am a long-time reader, first-time poster, and long-time admirer of all y’all.

    Perhaps someone should write a review on the other options listed in Chris’ post. I also agree that choice is good! So, if I’m starting a new FOSS project, why would I choose one service over the other?

    I would offer to do the comparison, but I work full-time, teach part-time in the evenings and I’m getting my Master’s in CS…

  • Mike

    We just had a nearly identical story last month regarding SourceForge. I don’t see anything different since then justifying another one.

    The problem with SourceForge downloads of GIMP wasn’t specifically that they included malware, but that they were present at all! SourceForge basically hijacked the project from the GIMP team’s control and started bundling crapware in the installer. They refused to acknowledge the GIMP team’s objections until a critical mass of complaints started pouring in.

  • Robert Glen Fogarty

    I contacted someone at SourceForge for a story I was working on when the whole crapware thing broke, and was amused when the extremely evasive source tried to pretend I was asking different questions!

  • @Mike The reason for this story was the new news that they now have an easy way for users to report deceptive ads that need removing and the new news that they’ve implemented a tool for importing GitHub projects to SourceForge. All of the stuff that you’re talking about was done by the previous owner, Dice Holdings. The new owners have been in control since January 28th and seem to be doing a lot of work to fix the damage that Dice did.

  • Eddie G.

    I for one am glad they’re on the mend, its been a while since I’ve been to their site, as I’ve had my hands full with all manner of “summer-isms” (keeping in mind I have a 16 yr old son to entertain until school starts back!…LoL!) So I’ll definitely be checking them out once I catch my breath and have a few days to myself!

  • Tim

    Back 3 or 4 years ago, I contacted sourceforce staff (‘report a bug’ form?) to lament “Is anyone awake? Why has no one on staff noticed (and fixed!) the broken `RecentlyUpdated` search filter?”

    Fast forward 2yrs. I was surprised to received an email stating “your ticket has been updated” and a personal-seeming (not boilerplate) message stating that so-and-so employee had fixed the reported problem. Great! …until I revisited the sourceforge site and discovered the filter behavior remains unchanged.

    Who can guess what, specifically, is considered to be an ‘update’ event? If no new files have been recently added for a project, no tickets nor wiki page edits… why the heck do obviously STALE projects wind up displayed to the Page1 of sf search when “Recently Updated” filter is selected? Without a properly working RecentlyUpdated search filter, it’s impossible to find fresh, interesting projects.