Open-source collaboration Web site shuts down

After spending 20 months trying to use the Internet to bring together corporate IT workers and open-source software developers to collaborate on technology projects, CollabNet Inc. has shut down its SourceXchange online marketplace due to a lack of adequate revenue.

Collab.Net co-founder Brian Behlendorf said in a statement posted on the San Francisco-based company’s Web site that SourceXchange closed on Friday. “While a unique idea, and one that we feel really adhered more closely to the open-source ideal than any other work-for-hire site ever did, it simply did not achieve the volume of business necessary to maintain the site and evolve the offering to meet the needs of sponsors and developers,” said Behlendorf, who helped create the Apache Web server.

SourceXchange was one of several new Internet-based marketplaces that let companies post proposals for open-source software projects and seek bids on the work from programmers. Collab.Net launched the site in mid-1999 and then raised $35 million in funding last June from a group of nine technology vendors, including Hewlett-Packard Co., Intel Corp., Oracle Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc.

But a Collab.Net spokeswoman Monday said the company began shifting its focus away from SourceXchange last fall, in order to give full attention to a collaborative software package called SourceCast, which was used to run the online marketplace. SourceXchange “was a great idea, but it was ahead of its time,” she added.

The big problem was that many companies preferred to seek application development help from known entities with which they had already established working relationships, said Bernie Mills, vice president of marketing at Collab.Net. “The model they wanted to use was the model of a trusted contractor,” rather than canvassing an online collaborative site such as SourceXchange, Mills said.

Tracy Corbo, an analyst at Hurwitz Group Inc. in Framingham, Mass., said she was surprised by the site’s closure, especially because the softening economy makes it more likely that companies will seek outside project help instead of hiring new full-time employees. “Maybe it was a case of being too early to market,” she said of the idea.