Launchpad Wants to Host Your Project

by Ostatic Staff - Jul. 29, 2008

Launchpad, the open source hosting site sponsored by Canonical (who are, of course, the folks driving Ubuntu Linux) has announced their 2.0 relaunch. The new version of the site offers several big improvements over the old one, and points a way for other sites to follow. But is it the right place for you to host your next project? Here's a rundown on the new features to help you decide.

Canonical promotes Launchpad as being all about collaboration - which makes sense, since very few open source projects can thrive in the absence of an active community. To further this, version 2.0 adds a formalized way to do code reviews online, with branches proposed for merging spawning their own discussion areas and mailing lists. This ought to help raise the bar for good code entering into the master of projects, and make it easier for changes to not languish unmerged.

More interestingly, Launchpad continues to open up to projects that are not hosted there. They're rolling out new GPL-licensed addons that allow a Launchpad project to share bug-tracking status and history with other projects that use Bugzilla or Trac for their own status. It would be nice to see this sort of thing become pervasive; in the best of all possible worlds, it can cut down on the fingerpointing that sometimes happens when a bug affects multiple levels of the software stack.

In another openness move, Launchpad is rolling out a RESTful API that gives access to some of its services. Right now that lets you get to people, teams, and bug-tracking, but the long-term goal is to make the API as comprehensive as the web interface. This will look like a very smart move if it catches on - project integration into IDEs is one potential big win, as are pervasive status-tracking widgets and mashups.

Of course, Launchpad retains the features it had before, including translation and distribution services and repository management, as well as the usual team-building and source code control services. One potential barrier to some teams is the use of the Bazaar source code management system; this is somewhat mitigated by their ability to run a continuous import from a Subversion or CVS repository.

Launchpad is certainly not the only project hosting site around; GitHub has been getting plenty of attention lately, SourceForge remains huge, and even Microsoft's Codeplex has its adherents. The new features in Launchpad, though, especially the API and sharing bugs, make it a strong choice moving forward.