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

By Jack M. Germain LinuxInsider ECT News Network
Mar 5, 2009 8:32 AM PT

The Linux Foundation (LF) has inked a deal that fosters collaboration with SourceForge and acquires ownership of Linux.com.

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

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

The Linux Foundation is a nonprofit outfit dedicated to accelerating the growth of Linux. SourceForge is a publicly owned company that maintains a large open source software repository and supports community-driven media and e-commerce projects. Until Wednesday, SourceForge owned the Linux.com Web site. The site served as an anchor for forums and editorial content about Linux and open source software.

"We see this as a natural fit for the Linux Foundation to host Linux.com. If you think about it, we administer the trademark. The site fits nicely into the content and community programs we already run," Amanda McPherson, vice president of marketing and developer programs 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 by SourceForge.

"This is a transfer of the URL. There's some collaboration and some use of SourceForge content on the site. We are representing the site in media sales. This sits very naturally, and we are very sensitive to the community. The Linux Foundation will have day-to-day responsibility for running the Linux.com site," Jon Sobel, group president of Media for SourceForge, told LinuxInsider.

The transfer of the URL is just one part of the whole relationship between the two companies. However, there is no agreement to form a partnership, and the two firms did not form a joint venture, Sobel explained.

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

Definite Distinctions

SourceForge remains a business in its own right. The foundation now has 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 equipped to sell advertising to online collaborative sites that features open source content. That's what they do. That's their business. We don't know how to do that, so they will help us with that. Basically, they will be a reseller for Linux.com," McPherson said.

Other media and e-commerce Web sites owned by SourceForge remain unchanged. These include SourceForge.net, Slashdot, Freshmeat and ThinkGeek.

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

"We were thinking very hard about the best things we could do to support 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 the Linux.com site and propelling it forward. SourceForge decided that a better, faster road to that goal was to have the Linux Foundation take the URL, he said.

"Obviously The Linux Foundation would always have loved to have Linux.com. It's a natural with the trademark and the driver projects we've done," said McPherson.

However, she conceded that SourceForge could have gone in any number of other directions, adding that she was very pleased that this has come to pass.

"If what we wanted to do was auction it off and generate as much cash as 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 company and do something for the community that also is a smart approach for us as a company. We think that this is going to be the best solution both to move the site forward and develop a business model around it that works for users, the foundation and us."

Troubled Times

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

Visitors to the site were automatically redirected to a forum page rather than the articles section. Ultimately, the heated -- often flame-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 general interest in what is going on. Obviously, it was difficult to be quiet and 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. As of Wednesday, the Linux.com site had a new look.

"We already shifted the URL to our servers and DNS (domain name system). The changes will be transparent to consumers," McPherson said.

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

The redesigned Web page at Linux.com has begun displaying two links. One takes visitors to the old forums. The second goes to a new site, IdeaForge, where visitors can suggest new ideas and activities 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," said McPherson, who is responsible for overseeing the site.

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

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What's most likely to cost a company your customer loyalty?
a major product fail
major unethical corporate behavior
public advocacy of social or political views I oppose
a really bad customer service experience
stagnation -- I'm attracted to innovation
none of the above -- I'll stick through thick and thin