Open SourceGoogle Code Celebrates 5th Anniversary of Open Source Project Hosting

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MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — If there was any question that you were in the right place for the Google Code anniversary event here on the search giant’s Silicon Valley campus, you needed only to glance at one vanity license plate in the parking lot outside: “I ♥ APIs”.

Five years ago, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) launched Google Code, a seemingly modest project designed to be an online resource for open source projects. At its start, Google Code had only four open source projects and a few APIs available.

It wasn’t until about nine months later that things changed. “Google Maps came along with open APIs, and that was really cool,” recalled Chris DiBona, open source programs manager at Google. The open APIs made it easy for outside developers to connect to Google’s mapping software, adding new features and content.

Fast forward to today and Google Code has over 240,000 projects registered, of which 26,000 have had active developer involvement in the past 30 days. There are also now 60 APIs (that receive over four billion hits per day) and over 100,000 pages of documentation for various projects. Google hosts 800 open source projects of its own, including four (Android, Chrome, Chrome OS and GWT) with over a million lines of code each.

“I think we passed every other developer network and really created something that’s going to have a long-lasting impact on computer science and the industry,” said DiBona.

Two other members of the Google Code team, Ben Collins-Sussman and Brian Fitzpatrick, said one aim of the site was to provide an alternative to what was then the only other major hosting site for open source projects, SourceForge.

“Nothing wrong with SourceForge, but there was an approval process that meant developers had to wait with no assurance their project would be accepted. And we also wanted to there to be more than a single point of failure,” Fitzgerald said.

Google Code instituted an automatic approval process, though spam and other ill-suited projects (like those just trying to take advantage of free hosting) are regularly deleted, DiBona told

Projects hosted on the site have been as diverse as the unique House of Cards video by Radiohead to student homework projects. DiBona said there was a lot of interest in a project launched last July on the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 space mission, when Google Code made available the Command Module code (Comanche054) and Lunar Module code (Luminary099) from the spaceship.

DiBona said one of the “nobler” aspects of Google Code is that it’s used by some smaller developers as a backup and repository to make sure their code survives online.

Google Code also spawned the search giant’s Summer of Code program that matches students with mentoring organizations to develop open source code.

“We like to say it’s about flipping bits instead of burgers,” quipped Fitzpatrick.

A birthday gift of more storage

To celebrate the 5th anniversary and thank supporters of the project, Google said it’s doubling the amount of source code storage it offers, from 1GB to 2GB. That’s another significant change from Google Code’s early years: Originally, Google offered 100 MB of storage back in 2006, when it first introduced the hosting service as part of Google Code.

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals..

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