Why You Cannot Forge an Open Source Forge

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One of the striking developments on the open source enterprise software scene has been the rise and rise of the forge. These are typically adjuncts to the main commercial sites that try to foster a vibrant developer community centred on the relevant open source code. It represents a distinct move away from centralised forges like SourceForge, towards what might be called “vertical forges” - if that's not too much of a mixed metaphor - aimed at a very specific group of coders. Here's the latest one:

Funambol, Inc., the leading provider of Mobile 2.0 messaging software powered by open source, today announced that it has launched a new open source forge as a central collaboration site for mobile open source developers around the world.

"Funambol has been the leading advocate of open source software for the mobile industry for many years and has played a major role in fostering the world's largest mobile open source community. Hosting a forge for mobile open source development is a natural for us," said Fabrizio Capobianco, CEO, Funambol. "Proprietary software approaches cannot keep up with the rapid pace of change in the mobile industry. The Funambol Forge will further ensure that development efforts are accelerated to meet the demand of this market."

At the new Funambol Forge, developers and other community members can work on mobile projects, share technical tips, and download software and documentation. The new forge houses source and binary code for the open source Funambol Community Edition and many Funambol-based community projects. It incorporates a new Discussion Services area that provides both mailing lists and online forums, as well as a new online support forum for the myFUNAMBOL portal. It is also the access point for all of Funambol's community programs, such as the Code Sniper and Phone Sniper programs.

Although proprietary software may try to create the same kind of community using add-ons, extensions and the like, it can never hope to match the power of truly open software in this regard. Indeed, that's one of the great things about free software: the more that an associated company gives in terms of licensing its code freely, the more it is likely to receive from the community that forms around that code.

This kind of sharing is something that just can't be faked: if you want to find out how much a company gives to its users, just take a look at the health of its associated forge. And if it doesn't even have one....

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