Linux Foundation Forges Deal, Takes the Wheel at Linux.com

The Linux Foundation (LF) has inked a deal that fosterscollaboration with SourceForge and acquires ownershipof Linux.com.

The move is intended to create a long-lasting community destination forLinux users and developers, officials from the organizations said.

The Linux Foundation is a nonprofit outfit dedicated toaccelerating the growth of Linux. SourceForge is a publicly ownedcompany that maintains a large open source software repository andsupports community-driven media and e-commerce projects. Until Wednesday, SourceForge owned the Linux.comWeb site. The site served as ananchor for forums and editorial content about Linux and open sourcesoftware.

“We see this as a natural fit for the Linux Foundation to hostLinux.com. If you think about it, we administer the trademark. Thesite fits nicely into the content and community programs we alreadyrun,” Amanda McPherson, vice president of marketing and developerprograms for LF, told LinuxInsider.

Buying the Name

Both companies emphasized that the sale involved only the “Linux.com” name, not the business or its other activities conducted bySourceForge.

“This is a transfer of the URL. There’s some collaboration and someuse of SourceForge content on the site. We are representing the sitein media sales. This sits very naturally, and we are very sensitive tothe community. The Linux Foundation will have day-to-dayresponsibility for running the Linux.com site,” Jon Sobel, grouppresident of Media for SourceForge, told LinuxInsider.

The transfer of the URL is just one part of the whole relationshipbetween the two companies. However, there is no agreement to form apartnership, and the two firms did not form a joint venture, Sobelexplained.

“The news in this for the consumer is that Linux.com is a new site. Itwill likely be even better than what it was before,” he said.

Definite Distinctions

SourceForge remains a business in its own right. The foundation nowhas ownership of Linux.com and controls everything on that Web site.SourceForge will sell ads as it did prior to the sale.

“They are helping us by selling the ad space. No one is better equippedto sell advertising to online collaborative sites that features opensource content. That’s what they do. That’s their business. We don’tknow how to do that, so they will help us with that. Basically, theywill be a reseller for Linux.com,” McPherson said.

Other media and e-commerce Web sites owned by SourceForge remainunchanged. These include SourceForge.net, Slashdot, Freshmeat andThinkGeek.

The sale of the URL and thenewfound collaboration accompanying the agreement resulted fromongoing discussions that began last year, according to McPherson and Sobel.

“We were thinking very hard about the best things we could do tosupport the community. Despite the size of the SourceForge Web site,we are a very small company,” said Sobel.

The discussions resulted from a widespread interest in taking theLinux.com site and propelling it forward. SourceForge decided that abetter, faster road to that goal was to have the Linux Foundation takethe URL, he said.

“Obviously The Linux Foundationwould always have loved to have Linux.com. It’s a natural with thetrademark and the driver projects we’ve done,” said McPherson.

However, she conceded that SourceForge could have gone in any numberof other directions, adding that she was very pleased that this hascome to pass.

“If what we wanted to do was auction it off and generate as much cashas possible, we could have gone in a number of better directions,” explained Sobel.”We’re really trying to return to our roots as an open source companyand do something for the community that also is a smart approach forus as a company. We think that this is going to be the best solutionboth to move the site forward and develop a business model around itthat works for users, the foundation and us.”

Troubled Times

Speculation and questions were raised following a vague announcement latelast year on the Linux.com homepage about a soon-to-be announcedchange in the Web site. Rumors grew about editors being fired anda lack of new content being posted.

Visitors to the site were automatically redirected to a forum pagerather than the articles section. Ultimately, the heated — oftenflame-filled — forum was closed to new postings.

“I appreciate there has been a loyal community around Linux.com.There’s been a lot of great contributions from people and a generalinterest in what is going on. Obviously, it was difficult to be quietand not be able to talk to people about what we were trying to do,”Sobel said.

Changes Coming

The Linux Foundation will keep the old site’s archives and forums. Asof Wednesday, the Linux.com site had a new look.

“We already shifted the URL to our servers and DNS (domain name system). The changes willbe transparent to consumers,” McPherson said.

While the foundation will control the editorial content, SourceForgewill sell the ad space. The editorial distinction: Linux.com under the Linux Foundation will likely not become a breakingnews publication, explained McPherson. The substance ofthe articles will shift to how-to and analysis.

The redesigned Web page at Linux.com has begun displaying twolinks. One takes visitors to the old forums. The second goes to anew site, IdeaForge, where visitors can suggest new ideas andactivities for the new Web site.

“Crowdsourcing and collaborative efforts are working very well for us.Eventually there will be a totally new Linux.com site,” saidMcPherson, who is responsible for overseeing the site.

Visitors will see a different branding strategy at work as thetransition is completed over the next few months, she said.

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