Open Source

It's time to go away, Sourceforge

That once king of app hosting, Sourceforge, has lost its crown and its way. Jack Wallen discusses why Sourceforge is now Scourgeforge.

Sorceforge

There once was a site called Sourceforge
Where open source kiddies would go
They'd download free proggies
And upload their projects
For that, they had plenty to show

During the nineties and early 2000s, when we needed to find an application to install from source, Sourceforge was the place to go. It held a veritable smorgasbord of software—most of it open source and a lot of it really useful. You could download an app, install it, and not incur a single issue.

It was cool, and I always recommended it to people when they needed to find software.

My how the mighty have fallen... and fallen hard.

Now? Sourceforge should be called Scourgeforge, because that's what they are—a scourge upon developers and end users. Instead of getting those wonderful apps that you once could trust, you get apps infused with opt-out installers that add toolbars and other pieces of malware onto your system. Those added installers... proprietary. So, even the open-source projects are now littered with closed-source bits and pieces.

What happened to once mighty repository (owned by Geeknet) of Linux, Windows, and Mac software? It was purchased by Dice. The moment they stepped in, every page displaying the available software was riddled with ads and download links that made it next to impossible to discern the link for what you wanted vs. the link you didn't want. Each and every one of those download links was click bait for second-rate software (most of which turned out to be malware, adware, and spyware). Dice came out to say they were attempting to profit-share for these projects, and any developer could opt out of the spyware game should they choose.

Back in 2013, the massive GIMP project left Sourceforge because of these changes. The thing is, the old GIMP project was still on the site. In May of 2015, some Sourceforge staff member decided to take it upon themselves to resurrect the Windows version of the project and offer it for download. Thanks to Sourceforge, this download happened to be riddled with third-party software. This little incident lead the popular Notepad++ project leaving Sourceforge due to the treatment of GIMP and the serving of "crapware."

And now... the WINE project is leaving Sourceforge.

The exodus is upon us. The survivors are abandoning ship in droves, and soon Sourceforge, that once great repository of software, will be worthless.

Now, I have to say this—I get it. Hosting sites were the darling service a decade or two ago. Back in the day when just being a killer project was enough to give you the credence you needed to be relevant, venture capital funding stuck to you like a groupie at a convention. That was then. Now, bottom line speaks louder than source. The lights have to stay on, and it's harder than ever for companies to stay above the water line and be above board.

At the moment, GitHub is the new Sourceforge. But how long will that honeymoon last before the owners realize they can't pay the bills with dreams and commits? When that happens, we'll all be bemoaning the downfall of GitHub. Next up. Next up. Next up.

These hosting sites are a necessity for open-source projects. The good thing about GitHub (and that which may prevent it from getting Sourceforged) is that it's primarily a hosting site for developers. Yes, you can download binaries from the site, but that's not its primary goal. GitHub's main purpose is collaboration, code review, and code management for open source and private projects. In fact, GitHub was structured in such a way that certain projects (ones that need private repositories) actually have to pay to play! You can have an account for free, and you get unlimited collaborators and public repositories. However, if you want private repositories, you have to pay. You can get up to 50 private repositories for $50/month on a personal level. If you're an organization, you can get up to 125 private repos for $125/month. And soon, you'll be able to purchase add-ons (such as Git Large File Storage).

The good news is that, in a post-Sourceforge world, trust has become a sacred commodity. This could mean the next Sourceforge might never rise from the ashes of the old. This is especially true considering nearly every platform has their own Software Center. That, of course, doesn't help when a user can't find the particular program or have decided they need to install from source. Unfortunately, to this day, there are many source download links that still take you to Sourceforge. Even many Linux ISO downloads are still hosted on Sourceforge. And if you wind up there, driven by a link you thought was innocent, I'd suggest you download any software with caution—especially .exe installers. Most likely, those files are filled with some form of malware. If you find yourself being sent to Sourceforge for a download, go back immediately and find another download location (one that isn't a Sourceforge mirror).

I'd like to think those pulling the puppet strings of Sourceforge would wise up and realize that they're destined to drive that project into a muddy grave. However, even if they right that ship, the brand might be too tainted at this point for anyone to ever trust the site again. To that I would say...

Sourceforge, it's time to go away.

Have you made the shift from Sourceforge to GitHub? If not, what keeps you on that sinking ship?

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About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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