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Developers Flock To Google's SourceForge Rival

Google is winning good reviews from early adopters of its new open-source development hub, Google Code Project Hosting.
Google is winning good reviews from early adopters of its new open-source development hub, Google Code Project Hosting. Less than a week after its launch, several thousand projects are hosted on the site, and users praise its simplicity.

"The user interface is better for administration," said John Cox, a veteran open-source developer who has installed several small, personal projects on the Google Code site. "[SourceForge] becomes a little overwhelming when all you need is a bug tracker and repository."

A profusion of sites offer hosting and management resources for open-source development work, but the field's long-established leader is SourceForge, which counts more than 1 million registered users working on 125,000 projects. Microsoft also recently launched CodePlex, its own shared-source repository.

Google Code's creators say developers will benefit from having more options for their project-management needs.

"We focused a lot on creating a clean, clutter-free user experience," said Google Engineering Manager Greg Stein via e-mail. "We are also able to leverage Google's search technology to design a whole new approach at issue tracking. We will also apply search to improve upon searching for relevant projects."

With its extreme simplicity, Google Code is best-suited for smaller projects, according to users.

"You could argue that the simplicity is because Google Code does not have important features ... but still a lot of the stuff that comes with java.net and sf.net is stuff you just want to get rid of," said developer Joe Walker in a blog review of Google Code. Walker hosts DWR, a Java library for Ajax development, on SourceForge and Java.net, but he expects to move pieces of it to Google.

Though Cox plans to use Google Code for hobbyist projects, he doesn't think it would be robust enough for a large open-source project like Xaraya, a content management system he helps develop. Xaraya relies on SourceForge for file hosting, a major feature that Google Code lacks.

Google's site offers the Subversion version-control system, an Ajax interface, a custom issue-tracking system, and integration with its Google Groups mailing-list service. Google's engineers say the beta site will acquire more functionality as it develops, including project export tools and the ability to host actual source-code distributions for download.

The site's most controversial feature is its licensing restrictions. Google Code supports only seven open-source licenses and doesn't allow projects to list multiple licenses. The move is a deliberate ideological decision, according to Stein.

"We are taking a position against license proliferation," Stein said. "We think that any project should be able to choose one of those licenses to meet their needs. Licensing proliferation increases the complexity of bringing together multiple software components."

Google Code's first few days were plagued by snafus, including sluggishness and a rash of server errors. Freelance programmer Michael Schurter was rebuffed by one when he tried to move his OpenIT project from SourceForge to Google Code, temporarily preventing him from exploring the new site.

Google Code's managers are fielding Google Code feedback through a dedicated Google Groups list. They reported through the group that early glitches like the SourceForge migration problem have been resolved.

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Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
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Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
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Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing