SourceForge is the world's largest open source development web site, with over 1.5 million users and nearly 150,000 registered projects. Recently they started teasing developers with plans for SourceForge Marketplace, a new way for people to get service and support for all that software. Details of the plans are being kept tightly under wraps, but in an exclusive interview last week, ZDNet managed to coax a few clues out of Michael Rudolph, VP and General Manager of SourceForge.net.
"SourceForge.net Marketplace is a new trading platform that we're integrating into SF.net," according to Rudolph. The platform is up and running now, but is in a "closed beta" stage. Rudolph declined to give ZDNet access to the system, saying "at this point, we're not showing the app to any media or analysts." But with information from Rudolph and others we have the general idea of what the application will look like.
Rudolph was hired away from eBay last year to lead the Marketplace effort. So it should come as no surprise that SourceForge Marketplace will have many similarities to eBay. Instead of buying and selling consumer goods, however, Marketplace users will buy and sell services for Open Source software. Rudolph describes the sellers as "service providers for Open Source Software" and the buyers as "technology professionals around the world."
As on eBay, reputation and feedback will play a key role. "Buyers want to know a lot about the Sellers," says Rudolph, so "we've built a ratings and review system that will provide this information in a transparent format." Sellers and buyers will find each other through a search engine integrated into sf.net. Rudolph says it will not be hooked into the bug tracking system, however, so users won't be able to pay 'bug bounties', at least not initially.
Sellers are free to set their own pricing, service levels, and service types, according to Rudolph. So they can choose to charge by the hour, by each incident, by subscription, or under whatever other terms they wish. Presumably, SourceForge would take a percentage of the fee charged, but Rudolph would not disclose exactly how this will work. "It's our intent to provide a lot of value for the service we provide," said Rudolph, adding that the new system would not replace the existing system of donations.
Interest in the nascent service has been high, though exact figures were not available. "We're in the early stages of recruiting projects," admits Rudolph, "but so far the interest has been very positive." So how will Marketplace compete with Red Hat Exchange, a project with similar goals? "We'll have to see as both programs roll out", says Rudolph. And when will that be? "We plan on rolling out an 'open beta' later this year."