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History of OSDN

In this document, in hopes to help you understand our philosophy, we laid out the whole history of OSDN.

1. The Open Source Movement and the Birth of OSDN (1998-2000)

OSDN's history can be traced back to VA Research who played a key role in the open source movement which began in Silicon Valley in 1998. VA Research who was deeply involved with the coining of the word "open source" played the central role. Not only selling Linux server hardware, but they also employed many open source developers, were involved with community activities, and started web sites that supported various open source activities.

From 1998 to 1999, investment began to flow in from several major venture capitals, and among them was Sumitomo Corporation, one of the top five Sogo Shoshas in Japan. Normally, Sogo Shoshas like Sumitomo do not invest in IT ventures. What moved Sumitomo to take the leap was not only the success of VA Research in the US, but also the drive to import the open source movement, in which they played a significant role, to Japan.

After the frenzy public stock offering of VA Research, which VA Linux Systems had changed their name to, Sumitomo made their initial move to launch open source business in Japan. Sumitomo persuaded VA Linux, and in September 2000, VA Linux Systems Japan K.K.(VA Japan) was founded in joint venture led by Sumitomo. VA Japan was expected to not only become the seller of VA Linux hardware, but also become the central core of all open source businesses in Japan that Sumitomo was involved in.

But in reality, the scale of Linux and free-software business in Japan was still miniscule, and although "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" written by Eric Reymond was known in the circle of Linux freaks, the existence of the word and movement of open source was obscure. So to promote the acknowledgement of the word, movement, culture, and software of open source in Japan, OSDN was organized. This is how the birth of OSDN came about, and it first began as just one of the divisions of VA Japan.

The very first member of OSDN was Shuji Sado, who back then founded Japan Linux Association and had already begun promoting open source. Even before VA Japan was founded, Sado had consulted Sumitomo and reached to an agreement that Japan needed a place that would serve as central core for open source promotional activities. Sado joined VA Japan right after VA Japan was founded, and all that led to the foundation of OSDN. Sado still remains as the top person of OSDN even to this day in 2015.

2. The Birth of Forge in Japan and the Burst of Dot-Com Bubble (2000-2002)

A few months after VA Japan was founded, OSDN launched a website called Slashdot Japan (now's SRAD) for its first task, taking into account that first and foremost it was crucial to create a place of free discussion for those in the technology world. At the same time, OSDN simultaneously went on to create a frame work to support various open-source communities, prepare for conference events, and prepare for the launch of a new website that would further support open-source development.

And then, on the US side, there came the Dot-com bubble burst which led VA Linux to crash.

The Linux hardware business of VA Linux was immediately blown away, and within a few months, all open source businesses were gone, and most of the open-source developers were laid off. And what little remained in VA Linux was the media business run on a few websites.

As of VA Japan back then, the company had been founded already but was still in the process of preparing for the full-out business. Then VA Linux crashed in the worst timing to inflict a huge loss on VA Japan. Almost all the hardware bought from VA Linux turned dead inventory, and the negative image against the name, VA Linux, and open source became a torture to VA Japan. And from US (VA Linux) side came the request to dissolve VA Japan, so VA Japan faced the extinction crisis soon after its foundation.

However, Sumitomo still believed in the potential of open source in Japan.

Rejecting the request made by VA Linux side to dissolve the company, Sumitomo took the initiative almost solely in carrying on the VA Japan's business. But after having taken a heavy toll financially, VA Japan had to shift gears of business strategies to fit the situation. First, core business was shifted from hardware business to selling core technology and knowledge specialized in Linux kernel to hardware vendors and enterprise businesses. This still goes on even to this day in 2015 remaining as VA Linux Systems Japan K.K.'s core business. For more information, refer to http://www.valinux.co.jp/english/.

At the same time, OSDN division of VA Japan kept moving forward with the plan of launching web sites to support open source development. Although some other plans had to be abandoned, this plan remained due to the notion that without the promotion of open source development, there's no future for VA Japan. This is how SourceForge.JP (now's OSDN) came to birth, and by the spring of 2002, the operation began officially.

The names chosen for the company and website were the same as the ones used in the US VA Linux. Those names hadn't penetrated Japan, so there wasn't any benefit in using those names. Nonetheless those same names were used, because, although VA Linux didn't go well in the US, we wanted to avoid rejection cast toward open source including passion and all other things. And for the first and most, we wanted to prove that VA Linux way of open source, which we have believed and invested in, would be accepted and succeed in Japan.

3. Growth of OSDN and SourceForge.JP (2002-2005)

As one of the divisions of VA Japan, OSDN continued to operate with stability, though having to meet constantly restricted budget. It provided support to the communities, translated open-source related documents, held conferences, and operated Slashdot Japan and SourceForge.JP. Hence the existence of websites having the same names in the US, it was around this time that VA Japan went into license agreement with then VA Linux, who had already changed its name to VA Software by the time.

Basically, SourceForge.JP initially targeted only Japanese people, and most of the features were developed with Japanese as priority language, and hence became something only Japanese people could use. This was around time when people started to voice out that, in Japan, the environment for open source development should be as open as possible globally, and should not turn inward shutting the doors to make it available only for the Japanese. Having that, SourceForge.JP was only expected to operate as a practicing platform before stepping up the projects to the platforms in the US. Actually there were many open-source projects that have stepped up to the US websites. And OSDN acknowledged it as something good for the open-source community.

Accordingly, SourceForge.JP was initially an extremely small system. But as it continued its operation, the demands for Japanese specific softwares such as input methods and fonts, and to develop within a small group became stronger, and that became the growing force to gradually stretch the scale of SourceForge.JP. The pace was very slow, but it steadily continued growing over the several years.

4. Going Independent from VA Japan and Start Walking Its Own Path (2005-2010)

Since around 2005, there were two problems that started tormenting OSDN. One was that OSDN being constantly restricted by the business of VA Japan, and the second was the obsolete system of SourceForge.JP

At the time, OSDN's operation was considered a part of VA Japan's marketing operations, and so there was a restriction that even the expenses for website operations had to be allocated within the marketing budget of VA Japan. Furthermore, as OSDN business started to grow, there were abrasions between OSDN operation and VA Japan in keeping work toward conforming direction. In an event like that, for being just a marketing division of VA Japan, OSDN had no choice but to go along with VA Japan's will. And this was truly a dilemma.

Also, even SourceForge.JP had a steady operation going on, there began to be more salient old features which were difficult to use. Back then, same thing was happening with the US side’s forge site, with many years of stagnation in development due to the lack of budget. So there were no new features which OSDN could refer to, and gradually, the situation grew more and more difficult for OSDN to recommend their forge site as a place for stepping up the open source development.

For this reason, at the beginning of 2006, proposal was made to separate OSDN's organization from VA Japan to make it an independent company.

Having to adjust the profits and losses with Sumitomo side, it became an extremely tough negotiation, but in September 2007, OSDN became an independent company completely separate from VA Japan. And Shuji Sado, who was the top person of OSDN, succeedingly consumed the position of CEO.

Having gained independence, OSDN took this as the opportunity to expand SourceForge.JP with new original features. Not only because the stance of prioritizing projects tied to Japan stayed unchanged, but also faced with a situation where US side's website features weren't necessarily appealing, we had to make up on our own what were lacking. Right from the beginning, there wasn't a piece of technology that SourceForge.JP had borrowed from the US side when the members of OSDN's developer staff created the websites based on open source code, so there weren't any technical issues. The challenges only lied within the budget, time, and decision making.

OSDN staff members developed Wiki, ticket system, review system, repository browsers, and so many other things on its own terms, and various website modifications were added to improve SourceForge.JP. These modifications were, rather than being added over a short period of time, implemented bit by bit through a long course of time. Although the pace was slow, as more refined the website became, more and more developers started using, and we even began seeing non-Japanese developers using the website.

5. Abandoning the Names of the Websites and Launching New Brands (2010-2015)

When OSDN Corporation was founded in 2007, it got the financial support from a venture capital called SunBridge. But since 2010, when Shuji Sado, the CEO, bought the entire share of OSDN Corporation and established a system where Sado made all the decisions, both OSDN and SourceForge.JP have operated with stability. There were no shareholders making pesty demands for more profits, which would've been a nuisance, and we were able to earnestly focus solely on the development of the websites for the developers and users.

On the other hand, we became more and more distant with the US side. Actually, when both Rob Malda and Jeff Bates, the two founders of Slashdot.org, were still with the US side, the relationship we had with them was great with a sense of comradeship, even though there wasn't much going on business wise. But when Rob Malda left in 2011, and the US side was bought by some job site business company, it became excruciatingly difficult to communicate. Also, due to the problems arose from some Adware program on their forge site, and the rampant spread of SPAM and malware have tarnishing the brand image, it became a sticky problem for us as well for using the same names.

At OSDN, we came up with several measures to fix the problem and had a discussion with the US side, but that effort never came to bear anything positive, and consequently, both sides reached to a decision to end the license agreement for the brands by March 2015. Henceforward, on May 11, 2015, Slashdot Japan and SourceForge.JP, the two websites which OSDN Corporation had been operating, changed the names respectively to SRAD and OSDN (the company name stayed the same.)

Right after that, discontent users of the US side's forge sites spewed anger here and there at many places, and that turned in to a huge flame.

By abandoning the names we'd used for 15 years, there were enormous sacrifices to be paid. That said, OSDN immediately discarded the then policy which was to be "the forge site for the Japanese people" and continued to make changes on OSDN to provide services open and available to the people around the world, which even non-Japanese speakers can feel comfortable using. Also, mirror network has been reorganized from being a group of mirror sites only setup within Japan into a global mirror network. This is still an ongoing effort.

And now.

  • Our support targets only open source software.
  • In accordance with the era, we continue to provide tools that are needed with the best of our ability.
  • We will never condone the existence of malware and SPAM.

We focus on carrying on with our operation of OSDN based on the policies above.