Quo vadis, SourceForge

As a software developer I’ve been using SourceForge for around six years now (I believe I joined in 2009). I’m using it to help develop and distribute dispcalGUI, an open source graphical user interface for Argyll CMS aimed at display calibration and characterization, utilizing these free services:

▪ Version control
▪ Hosting of binary and source code downloads over a distributed network of mirrors
▪ Support forums
▪ Issue tracker
▪ Mailing lists
▪ Wiki

The latest development is that the current owners of SourceForge, DHI Group (the former Dice Holdings, which had acquired SourceForge from GeekNet in 2012), is looking to sell off its Slashdot Media assets, which includes SourceForge. It’s too early to really tell what this means for its future, but nevertheless, I’m keeping an eye out for alternatives, and if SourceForge should cease to be an option for one reason or the other, I will be forced to move elsewhere—even considering self-hosting everything I need if I really can’t avoid it.

I’ve never partaken, nor plan to partake, in the controversial opt-in DevShare program that’s been available since 2013 (which would, at the choice of a developer, bundle open source software with closed source ad-ware, and share ad revenues with developers). I’ve observed, with dismay, the project hijackings done by SourceForge of „abandoned“ projects (which weren’t really abandoned, but just weren’t using SourceForge anymore, i.e. development, file hosting etc. continued elsewhere)—thankfully, SourceForge seems to have stopped this practice, but a bad aftertaste remains. I’ve lived with my concerns about the proliferation of sometimes misleading ads on project download pages that was going on for a while, where an ad could consist of only a big green „download“ button, with no clear indication that it actually was an ad and not a download button for the project files (although the situation seems to have gotten better, and I’ve not run into any of those ads for a while now). I understand that Sourceforge needs to pay its bills somehow, but ads have in my opinion been placed and potentially picked strategically in such a way to make it more likely that visitors click them accidentally, or are mislead into clicking them.

Despite my concerns and in some cases disdain for some of the business practices employed by SourceForge, I still feel it provides me with valuable services that aren’t easily replaced (recent service outages notwithstanding)—and by easily, I mean without me having to spend a considerable amount of time setting up alternatives. The matter of fact is that no other free or paid service provider actually seems to provide all the services I currently use (see the list above)—e.g. GitHub is viable for version control, code hosting, wiki and issue tracker, but does not provide hosting of binary downloads over a distributed network of mirrors, forums or mailing lists, which all are important components to me.

That said though, a new owner might actually bring positive change. We will see.

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