What Google Code's end means for Bitbucket, CodePlex, and SourceForge

With most of its projects migrating away to GitHub, Google Code is shutting down; how will other competitors fare?

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Credit: Signum Comminatio Vitae

For a time, Google Code was where many open source projects made their home. Then came the rise -- and rise and rise -- of GitHub, and now Google Code is set to shut its doors by the beginning of next year.

This is great news for GitHub, which has become all but synonymous with code hosting for a generation of programmers. But what of the other major open source project hosting sites -- Atlassian's Bitbucket, Microsoft's CodePlex, and Slashdot's SourceForge (owned by Dice)? How likely are they to become the next victims of GitHub's success, and how could they avoid that fate?

Bitbucket seems to have some sense of how to distinguish itself from GitHub. Alison Huselid, head of product marketing, developer tools at Atlassian, differentiated the two services this way: "GitHub is great for the open source community and is used extensively for storing public repositories," she wrote in an email. "Bitbucket, on the other hand, is designed for professional software teams and is used extensively for private repositories." This distinction may only grow as GitHub becomes more famous for being a host to collaborative efforts beyond software.

CodePlex, Microsoft's hosting service for open source projects, has long stood out simply by being a Microsoft venture. Most of what's hosted there is either open source work produced by Microsoft or related to a Microsoft product: various Visual Studio tools, new-generation .Net technologies, and so on. CodePlex also has a strict "no non-software projects" rule, so it likely won't become a home ground for the kinds of eclectic projects GitHub has become known for apart from software. (Microsoft declined to comment for this article about future plans for CodePlex.)

As for SourceForge, it was slow to add support for the kind of distributed version control that GitHub provided from the beginning and thus lost momentum. But it still enjoys a good deal of attention as a repository for open source projects that include binary distributions, such as Apache OpenOffice, the KeePass password manager, or the Scribus desktop publishing system. GitHub discourages its users from hosting large binaries, so SourceForge remains attractive for distributing binaries to users. (SourceForge did not reply to requests for comment for this article.)

Jay Lyman, analyst for 451 Research, believes that "the newer repositories have an advantage in their association with newer tools and technologies, particularly as time goes on," but he didn't see see the rise of GitHub as automatically coming at the expense of other services. "As with other software such as operating systems, hypervisors, and systems management," he wrote in an email, "we also see use of multiple repositories by large enterprises, so I don't think it's  a zero-sum game, and we are likely to see coexistence of the newer repositories and perhaps the addition of more, considering things such as Docker Hub."

In this light, all three services are likely to have futures apart from GitHub in some form: Bitbucket for hosted private projects, CodePlex as a repository for Microsoft's ongoing open source work, and SourceForge for packaged projects. But there's also nothing stopping GitHub from eclipsing all of those functions.

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