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If I suddenly die, my small open source project will survive (after all, the source code is open), but it can be hurt quite badly: The project's web domain is owned by me and it could become cybersquatted.

We are just a bunch of individuals who have never met. There is no overall organization/foundation. Patches get submitted by companies and individuals who have their own agenda that might or might not include openness.

  • Is there a commonly established practice to handle this?
  • For instance, is there a kind of open source foundation that would accept to handle domain ownership/fallback in some way? In normal times it would do nothing, but when I die it would identify the core developers, contact them and established a transfer strategy.
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    I'm torn between upvoting this, and flagging it as off-topic :( – kdopen Jun 25 '15 at 4:46
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    @kdopen: I believe the problem described is specific to open source. Proprietary software almost always have a company behind, or an individual not specially interested in the common good. – Nicolas Raoul Jun 25 '15 at 4:51
  • That's why I'm torn. It's also asking for external resources ('a kind of open source foundation') which i generally a big no-no on SO, and gets involved in legal areas like will probate - if you 'own' the domain name, then it is part of your estate. – kdopen Jun 25 '15 at 4:54
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    @kdopen: The most similar existing site is probably Open Data, and questions asking for external resources/platforms are highly appreciated there. – Nicolas Raoul Jun 25 '15 at 6:18
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    I actually rescued a project from oblivion. The original site went offline and I had a copy on an old hard drive. I uploaded it to GitHub. It's no longer active, but the code has been preserved. – RubberDuck Aug 7 '15 at 2:44
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You might be able to try one of the following.

  • Use a shared repository like GitHub or similar and then your domain name is not required for the project to continue i.e. graceful degradation of service.
  • Try gifting the domain name to a reliable/established group (might need to pay for a few years domain ownership first).
  • Don't rely on the domain name at all.
  • Gift the code to Apache or Eclipse if you can.
  • Gift the code to FSF if GPLv3 or LGPL is OK.
  • Put it in your will / talk to your next of kin about it.

This is a real issue, but it also applies to company-backed open source and proprietary code, I have tracked down code that is supported by companies that don't exist / bought by Medical Device Manufacturers (experience talking), Open Source that is now off the web (yes it can happen) and similar.

And does it really matter in the end?

  • Very interesting advice about not using a website in the first place! Apache/Eclipse have very steep requirements. As for your final question, I guess it matters, as the website usually shows the "latest release" for download, which might actually have critical security flaws patched elsewhere. Skilled cybersquatters might even mirror the past website and offer the same binaries infected with malware once they get control of the domain. – Nicolas Raoul Jun 25 '15 at 6:28
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    @NicolasRaoul - there's a term for that - SourceForgery. – Deer Hunter Jun 25 '15 at 6:34
  • I assumed that your hosting would survive your death (i.e. sourceforge), but if not hosted at souceforge/google code, then you probably need some alternative. – Andrew Russell Jun 25 '15 at 21:07
  • Did you know that google code is being discontinued? – congusbongus Jun 25 '15 at 23:57
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    I'm not comfortable with recommending people use sourceforge: Why open source projects are fleeing sourceforge – trichoplax Jul 3 '15 at 12:36

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