I keep seeing articles and quotes where people in total ignorance
state that Open Source is dying and then they turn and point at
the number of dead projects on SourceForge to back up their ridiculous
Quick note, I'm going to use the term "Open Source" in that silly
loosey-goosey way many "journalists" in the media use it. Otherwise
this mini-article looses its oomph while I do vocabulary translation.
There are a lot of dead projects on SourceForge and I think the number
has nothing to do with the present and future of Open Source as a
method of developing software or as a classification of software.
First off, some projects die before they leave the gates. There are
dozens of projects on SourceForge where the mission statement is
something like "We're out to build the most technologically advanced
3d rendering system EVAH!" Many of these projects will go no where
because they're not realistic. I would posit the people who created
these projects are either inexperienced in the subject at hand, they're
eternal dreamers, or they don't really know what it is they want
to do in the first place. There's nothing wrong with that--most of
the developers I know cut our teeth on things like this and learned
valuable lessons as to what ideas we have that are worth tackling
and putting the energy into and what need some more time to be
This happens all the time in non-Open-Source projects. Watching
any software company's press releases over time alone shows that
some projects are good ideas and some don't make it past the gates.
Second, some projects lack the infrastructure and management to
survive. Most of the projects I've worked on are dangerously close
to this line. Every project that is successful has a huge amount of
development and user infrastructure there to facilitate communication,
testing, bug-finding, documentation, and a slew of other things that
healthy projects need. Why do projects need these things? They make
it possible for a diverse group of people to work on the project and
communicate with each other. They make it possible for users to look
at the project, figure out if it fits their needs, install, configure,
use the software, and report issues back to the development team. Without
this infrastructure in place, it takes a huge amount of energy to keep
things running and unless people are working on the project full-time,
it's likely people don't have time to pull that off. I would posit
this is the biggest issues for small and medium Open Source projects.
Building infrastructure and policies is hard work and it really requires
the people involved to have a lot of experience in this sort of thing.
This is true of many things--wood-working projects, making movies,
starting up a band, starting a restaurant... What is the success rate
for bands? How many fail or disband after a few months? Does that mean
that music is dead or failing?
Third, some projects are abandoned because similar projects end up
being better in some way: features, management, infrastructure,
momentum, marketing, etc....
This happens in non-Open-Source projects all the time. When was the
last time you heard of someone using Lotus 1-2-3 or VisiCalc?
While not comprehensive, I think these three reasons cover a huge number
of failed/dead/abandoned SourceForge projects.
This isn't a study and I'm not going to put the time into building a
set of numbers. Regardless, my experiences with Open Source software
has led me to believe it's totally ridiculous that people point at
the failed projects on SourceForge and use that to base their ridiculous
claims that Open Source is a fad and/or that it's a failed model and/or
that it's going to die.