Almost as soon as I started writing here, however, this idea was challenged. Companies began building their own custom forges.
One reason was conversion. If you have control of the site where they get their software, you can contact them immediately and start turning them into paying customers.
Google Code was launched early in this process, 5 years ago now, and for a long time I categorized it alongside these custom forges. Its annual summer of code event sounded gimmicky and highly Google-centric.
As custom forges evolved, most large companies launched their own open software repositories. It was becoming clear that many new projects would no longer stand on their own, they would be attached to some larger project, so it made sense for developers to align.
Microsoft, as always the bull elephant in the china shop, illustrated this evolution quite well. Its CodePlex began as a corporate forge, a place for Microsoft developers to gather under Microsoft "open source" licenses.
But CodePlex also evolved. Its licenses were approved by OSI. Projects with non-Microsoft licenses came in. The site evolved its own niche, as a place where corporations could safely open their own software repositories for view and extension.
Last year it launched a CodePlex Foundation, seaparate from Microsoft, to direct its growth. The idea was to go beyond the corporate umbrella and be seen as a force in the wider world.
Why do this? One reason might be to compete with Google Code.
Examples like this now make Google Code more powerful than Sourceforge, in my opinion. If you're an ambitious programmer, you want to be working where your work might be seen by people who can do you some good. Google Code has become off-Broadway. Sourceforge is Philadelphia.
But there is one thing I am certain of, as Google Code celebrates its fifth birthday. Forges will continue to evolve. Forges are far from their climax state.
What do you think their next evolution will be?