Google plays host to boost open-source

Google Inc. is offering to host open source software development projects in a move that has been met with mixed reaction from the developer community online.

As part of the new offering, launched on Thursday, developers get 100M bytes of disk space to store and share their open source project, and can use tools such as issue tracking and mailing list support. Google said it is making the offer, which can be found at http://code.google.com/hosting, in an effort to encourage healthy, productive open source communities.

Developers must have a Gmail account to use the service, which won’t feature advertisements and doesn’t allow developers to include advertisements within their project pages, at least for now.

Google will only support single-license projects. Developers can host their projects under limited types of licenses as part of an effort by Google to encourage developers to standardize on popular, strong licenses.

On the site’s frequently asked questions page (http://code.google.com/hosting/faq.html), Google admits that the service has a few shortcomings compared to others. For example, while many issue tracking systems already exist, Google created a new one that includes a minimal set of fields plus Google’s search technology to simplify use, Google said.

Google suggests that if it doesn’t offer some tools that are required, developers can use tools that are hosted by other sites, including links within their project to direct users to the other tools.

The new service is similar to one offered by collaborative open source development site SourceForge.net, which last May announced it had hosted 100,000 projects since its inception.

People posting comments about the new Google service in discussions on Slashdot.org, the technology news site that, along with SourceForge, is owned by Open Source Technology Group Inc., had varied reactions to how the service might compare to SourceForge. Some complained of poor performance on SourceForge and expressed hope that the Google offering would deliver improved speed and support. Others complained of shortcomings to the Google service, such as lack of support for certain tools and licenses.

One comment, signed by Ross Turk, engineering manager for SourceForge, said that the new Google service would be good for the open source community. Although currently Google isn’t allowing developers to import SourceForge projects to the new hosting site, SourceForge is discussing ways to better integrate SourceForge with Google, he wrote. “I expect there will be a much more substantial integration as the community makes its needs known,” he wrote.



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