Facilitating the Spread of Knowledge and Innovation in Professional Software Development

Write for InfoQ


Choose your language

InfoQ Homepage News Reviews Mixed on Google's New Project Hosting Service

Reviews Mixed on Google's New Project Hosting Service

Last week Google announced a new hosting service for open-source projects. Current features of the service include:

  • Project workspaces with simple membership controls
  • 100 megs of Version Control via Subversion - storage backed by Google's Bigtable storage system. This limit can be increased by Google per project if needed.
  • Ajax Enabled Issue Tracking System
  • Mailing lists at
  • Tagging Support (Labels) for Projects
Developer comments around the web have been mixed. Some developers have been impressed with the service while others feel underwhelmed.

"It is very user friendly and the only necessary feature I think it missing (other than the obvious option of downloading precompiled binaries) is some metrics on code development and stability, as well as a mechanism for differentiating the great FOSS projects from the merely good. It doesn’t have as many “developers, developers, developers” features as SourceForge (and probably never will with Google approach to clean and simple layout), but that isn’t a bad thing. At the very least it lowers the barriers for project management. That might means more FOSS projects, but also a lot more crap to sift through."

"From a producer perspective, no strings attached, free subversion hosting is a great offering ... As a consumer, my question is how I'm going to filter out the crap. Nothing is worse than seeing a promising-sounding project and then finding out that there's nothing of value there. On SourceForge, there's plenty of deadwood, but I can look for releases, at activity levels on mailing lists, or at project statistics. On, I can look at releases, mailing lists, or at rankings..."

Joe Walker:

"...As usual, they've got the 'keep it simple, stupid" thing nailed. Look at the Google DWR page, and compare it with DWR at Sourceforge, or even DWR at You could argue that the simplicity is because Google Code does not have important features (see below), but still a lot of the stuff that comes with and is stuff you just want to get rid of...."

InfoQ interviewed Google's Greg Stein about the service. NewsForge recently quoted Greg as saying:

"We really like SourceForge, and we don't want to hurt SourceForge" or take away projects. Instead, Stein says that the goal is to see what Google can do with the Google infrastructure, to provide an alternative for open source projects.
One obvious benefit is a Subversion implementation backed by Google's Big Table, a massively scalable, highly available storage technology. In response to other ways Google's infrastructure might be leveraged Greg answered:

Using our search technology to design a whole new approach at issue tracking. We will also apply search to improve upon searching for relevant projects.

One of the most controversial features of the new Google service is that it limits hosted projects to one of the following licenses Apache, Artistic + GPL, GPL v2, LGPL, BSD, MIT or Mozilla. Dual licensing is not permitted. Greg commented:

We are taking a position against license proliferation. Those seven licenses cover a range of licensing styles, and have seen wide adoption. 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. By reducing the number of licenses, the hope is to make it easier for developers and users to choose the software that meets their needs without needing to overly worry about how those licenses will work together.

In addition, we disagree with the concept of "dual licenses". That process makes it even more difficult to understand how licenses interact with each other, so we'd like to discourage that. We have allowed one specific pair: the Artistic and GPL license because that pair has been adopted by the Perl community. I believe they are creating a new Artistic License, which we will allow as a single (rather than dual) license when that license has been completed.

Finishing up the interview, Greg confirmed that current Google open source projects on SourceForge will be moving to the new Google hosting service. The next major feature slated for release is support for downloads. Google isn't commenting on other possible future improvements at this time.

Rate this Article