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On the savannah, where the gnu roam...

by Matt Lee Contributions Published on Aug 06, 2008 05:33 PM
There are many services that will host your project's source code, mailing lists and bug trackers. While very few of these services charge for their services, most of them are built on proprietary software. Worse, some of them have started adding adverts for proprietary software in their mailing lists, or refusing projects with certain free software licenses.


For a while, Sourceforge was released as free software. When VA Software decided to make it proprietary, two forks of the software were created -- Savane, and GForge. Development of Sourceforge has moved along quite a lot since then, and the version of Sourceforge now is quite different from the free software projects that are still being maintained. One additional reason to avoid Sourceforge is that they include advertisements for proprietary software in their mailing lists, so simply using a mailing list on Sourceforge is helping to promote non-free software.

Google Code

Google also runs a project hosting service, providing Subversion on top of their proprietary BigTable system, as well as issue trackers, a wiki and a download area. Google Code refuses to allow projects hosted there to use certain free software licenses, including the GNU Affero GPL and the Mozilla Public License, one of the licenses used on the Firefox, Thunderbird and Mozilla internet suite projects -- arguing that these licenses are insufficiently popular.


Launchpad is a code hosting service, bug tracker, translation tool and knowledge base for free software, provided by Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu. Launchpad has been widely criticized for its proprietary nature, and currently remains proprietary. However, Mark Shuttleworth has recently announced Launchpad will be released as free software in the next 12 months. Like Sun's announcement with Java, we should continue to put pressure on Canonical to make good on this announcement.

Update: In July 2009, Canonical released Launchpad under the AGPL.

Savannah -- the free software host for free software development

So, what's the alternative? One real alternative that exists today is Savannah.

Savannah is a community project, providing code hosting for your free software project, whether you use CVS, Subversion, Git, Mercurial or Arch. Unlike Sourceforge, Google Code and Launchpad, Savannah is free software, and there is no advertising, so your project will not be associated with proprietary software at all.

As a developer, when you add your project to Savannah, you join and strengthen a community based on free software ideals -- every project on Savannah is vetted first, to ensure that it is free software with no proprietary dependencies. Savannah is built by the work of volunteers, who maintain and develop the system. The recent addition of new version control options, for example, was the result of hard work by several volunteers.

By choosing Savannah, you show that you value your freedom and you encourage others to do the same. Read SourceForge Drifting by Savannah founder Loic Dachary.

What does Savannah have to offer?

Technically, Savannah provides:

  • A choice of version control systems for your source code:
    • CVS
    • GNU Arch
    • Subversion
    • Git
    • Mercurial
  • The Savane integrated bug-tracking system, for bugs, support requests, tasks and patches
  • Mailing lists at and, managed via Mailman
  • Webpages (at or, managed through CVS.
  • A download area, and its mirrors.

In addition to hosting your own project on Savannah, you can join the volunteer team and help improve it. In particular, if you have PHP and Perl skills, please e-mail and volunteer your services. Stop by the #savannah IRC channel for a chat too!

Savannah -- the choice of the GNU generation.

Join or donate to the Free Software Foundation today, and support freedom!

Photos by Aunt Owwee and Savannah Grandfather. Some rights reserved.

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