Roberto writes that Sourceforge (SF) is adding the ability for OSS projects hosted on Sourceforge.net to sell support & services, and for users to buy these services. SF plans to launch Marketplace in late spring/early summer.

Kudos to Roberto for not only blogging about the Marketplace announcement, but also for finding the Senior Market Management position for SF Marketplace and linking to VA Software’s (SF’s parent company) latest 10Q. It’s amazing that they made $13M in e-commerce revenue in the most recent quarter from selling consumer goods through ThinkGeek. Also interesting is that VA made $3.8M from online media, mostly advertising. I would have guessed sites like Sourceforge.net and Slashdot.org would drive more than ~$4M in Ad revenue per quarter. But maybe geeks don’t click banner ads because they use Firefox with Adblock Plus ;-)

Anywho, so now it gets interesting between SF Marketplace & Red Hat Exchange, although they appear to be going after different projects & customers.

Red Hat is definitely going after the enterprise customer who has (by in large) made the decision to run the given product on RHEL. So, the testing and certification of a product with RHEL is critical to being included in the Red Hat Exchange.

But a majority of customers don’t run OSS on RHEL. A lot of folks run on Windows. Even JBoss use on Windows was 50% or so, which is somewhat lower than similar figures we saw from our WAS CE downloads about a year ago – things may have changed since though.

Today, SF is a leading destination for finding & downloading OSS products. The SF Marketplace appears to be the next logical step.

For the large projects on SF who already have support & services business attached, I doubt that this announcement changes much at all. Customers interested in, for example, Hibernate support, will find their way to hibernate.org and then to jboss.com. So I’m not sure why RH/JBoss would want to give up a percentage of their revenue to VA/SF just to get included in the SF Marketplace.

For emerging projects or for projects with a small development team/community, a majority of the 144,548 projects on SF (i.e. Longtail projects), getting included in the Marketplace would make a lot of sense. Why spend time and resources building & managing the support infrastructure and marketing your support & services if SF can provide that to you for a (small?) cut of your revenue.

Experience tells me that customers are cautious when it comes to spending money. When they do, they want to spend with vendors that have a strong future. So, for longtail projects on SF, I’m not sure that the SF Marketplace will change much of this customer behaviour. Remember, downloads are a badge of credibility, something that longtail projects lack as you move further down the tail. So, if the SF Marketplace won’t drive a lot of revenue for longtail projects and the large projects on SF already have a Support & Service offering through the vendor site, what’s left for SF Marketplace?

I could be proven wrong, and maybe users of longtail SF projects will decide to fund future development through support purchases.

I wonder if SF Marketplace will allow me to see who is offering support & services for, say, Hibernate in one place (i.e. JBoss, Virtuas, Neward & Associates, etc.). But maybe the project owner would have a say in who can offer support for said project? :-)

It will definitely be interesting to see how customers adopt SF Marketplace & Red Hat Exchange.