Whither CodePlex

UPDATE: VFPX is being moved to GitHub and its initial conversion looks well underway.

So Microsoft’s latest technology to go to the waste pile in the sky is CodePlex.

It joins a long-standing tradition of Microsoft’s to eventually dissolve technologies that it created to help it compete and then decide to get rid of it entirely with fairly minimal warning – the site goes completely dark in December, 2017.

Now are the costs associated with CodePlex that high?

One of the arguments for choosing a company like Microsoft or Google used to be that they would stand behind their products for a good period of time, unlike smaller companies. Smaller companies, they argued, were far more liable to have to stop their services as costs became higher than the benefit of operating. This brings up the question on how several sites that don’t have costs manage to continue operating – (I can’t imagine Trello has enough people paying for its services to account for all the free accounts – but oops! Trello has been bought by Atlassian so maybe there should be a concern there as well).

In the past, Google has shut down ongoing projects (such as Google Health, and many of the gmail add-ons) with minimal notice but Google’s saving grace has been that most of their products were always in “beta”. Microsoft never put beta flags on these products so one might be forgiven for expecting they would be around for a while.

One of the explanations behind Codeplex’s shutdown is the issue of spammers “and Redmond having to deal with spammers taking advantage of the CodePlex domain.” 

So if Microsoft can’t figure out a better way of dealing with spammers on the domain, their solution is to close it down.

So developers are encouraged to switch to GitHub, which is awesome but it also means there is only one place where code goes to live, beyond your own proprietary way. But wait – there’s always Visual Studio Team Services, right?

Frankly, that Microsoft wants to shut down its own services that haven’t been around that long (relatively speaking, CodePlex is less than 10 years old), makes me concerned about a service like Visual Studio Team Services.

Yes, I know that Visual Studio is Microsoft’s primary development platform – but it’s only been that way since the 90’s. Shouldn’t that be getting ready to go away as well, following the Microsoft tradition of leaving developers with investments in technology it no longer wants to support?

Visual Studio Team Services links to its own Git server and Visual Studio also links to GitHub so why would or should one bother with Visual Studio Team Services? What is the benefit of such a service if it runs the risk of disappearing in a few years?

Visual Studio Team Services offers a great tool and implementation of TFS (Team Foundation Server) – indeed, one of my clients has made a huge investment (business-wide) in TFS, managing most of its development in that technology. TFS’s bug and user story tracking is a HUGE benefit and right now, I only know of software that does smaller bits of it. I suppose they could all work together but that means teaching others to learn new and differing interfaces. It defeats the purpose altogether.

I’m not blind to the ever-changing world of technology platforms – everything evolves. But GitHub is only 9 years old, which in the world of technology is still really young. When it disappears, where will your source code go? But perhaps most importantly, where does the LEGACY code go? TFS offered a migration from SourceSafe, Microsoft’s original source code repository. This meant that even ten years after the fact, one could track the history of code going back several years, including comments to identify why decisions were made. Some people have identified how to migrate with their change sets intact (thanks Chris!) Ironically, the tool he refers to (Git-TF) was hosted on….you guessed it, CodePlex. CodePlex has also worked with GitHub and other providers for this transition.

Steven Black started using GitHub for his FoxPro code years ago – (here’s a link to his recent set of FoxUnit changes). But what will this mean for a group project like VFPX? Will there be a single VFPX GitHub project? Is that really smart for a group of somewhat related projects that may or may not be updated?

Maybe it would be best for each project to separate out into its own GitHub project and maintain strong links. That offers a lot of benefit as GitHub offers a great way for everyone to contribute and link to each other. Maybe then the VFPX.org web site could then simply provide a better interface to finding those projects.

It’s yet another evolution for disappearing Microsoft initiatives.

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