By acquiring Ohloh.net, the vendor of tools for managing open source code gets a community of developers and usage stats on open source code. Why Geeknet sold Ohloh.net and what its users can expect from BlackDuck

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Waltham, Mass.-based BlackDuck Software Inc. has acquired Ohloh.net, a public directory of open source software and a community of developers, and will merge the site with its own koders.com search engine in early 2011.

BlackDuck, which provides tools to help developers manage their use of open source code, already maintains a database and search engine for open source projects but the company’s CEO said buying an existing front-end for all that made more sense than building one in-house.

“As we looked at the (site) we determined that it would save us six to 12 months,” said Tim Yeaton, BlackDuck’s CEO. “It’s a great starting point, great user interface.”

Ohloh.net, a name derived from the word describing an ancient Haiwaiian surfboard and acquired by BlackDuck from online network Geeknet, has a community of software developers that is another attractive point for BlackDuck in terms of the social networking and peer interactions, said Yeaton.

Geeknet’s other sites include SourceForge, Slashdot, ThinkGeek, Geek.com and freshmeat.

The merger means BlackDuck developers will have access to a greater pool of open source code and users, while Ohloh.net developers will benefit from the BlackDuck KnowledgeBase of open source projects.

Once merged into a single platform, ohloh.net will still retain its name. BlackDuck has further plans to augment the merger with new tools currently in development.

But in the meantime, several fixes will be made to Ohloh.net as per developer feedback before actually merging koders.com, an integration that should be finalized in the first half of 2011. “We want that community to know we are committed and make them productive even in the interim,” said Yeaton.

While there is some overlap across the two communities of developers, there will be “bridges” between both BlackDuck and ohloh.net to make participation easier, said Yeaton. “Frankly there is an opportunity to pull in many, many more users,” he said.

Scott Collison, chief product officer of Geeknet and the founder of Ohloh.net, said the company decided to sell Ohloh.net because it was not aligned with its core business which is to provide tools and services to build software.

Geeket was not in the business of providing data on open source software use.

“We found out that we did not monetize that part of the business as effectively, and we found out it just didn’t add as much value to our company by being in that business,” said Collison.

The transaction includes the site, codes and documentation for Ohloh.net.

Randy Hearn, senior research analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group Ltd., thinks BlackDuck’s latest purchase is a good move where the true value is in the acquired data and the “instant marketing.”

“It’s not about building the user interface,” said Hearn. “I think they were after the data, the repository of information.”

The integration of Ohloh.net is one more step in BlackDuck building itself as a “Google of open source,” said Hearn.

Yeaton hopes that now having “wide-angle lens into the entire open source ecosystem” will further help open source make more formal inroads in the enterprise.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau

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