announced today that they’ll be shutting down Google Code Search in
January. I am quite sure that this would be a massive loss for the Free
Software community. The ability to learn from other people’s code is a key
idea of Free Software. There’s simply no better way to do that than with a
source code search engine. The day Google Code Search will be shut down will
be a sad day for the Free Software community.
Of course, there are a couple of alternatives around, but they all have one
thing in common: they, uh, don’t even remotely compare to the completeness,
performance and simplicity of the Google Code Search interface, and have
serious usability issues. (For example: koders.com is really really slow, and
splits up identifiers you search for at underscores, which kinda makes it
useless for looking for almost any kind of code.)
I think it must be of genuine interest to the Free Software community to
have a capable replacement for Google Code Search, for the day it is turned
off. In fact, it probably should be something the various foundations which
promote Free Software should be looking into, like the FSF or the Linux
Foundation. There are very few better ways to get Free Software into the heads
and minds of engineers than by examples — examples consisting of real life
code they can find with a source code search engine. I believe a source code
search engine is probably among the best vehicles to promote Free Software
towards engineers. In particular if it itself was Free Software (in contrast to
Google Code Search).
Ideally, all software available on web sites like SourceForge, Freshmeat, or
github should be indexed. But there’s also a chance for distributions here:
indexing the sources of all packages a distribution like Debian or Fedora
include would be a great tool for developers. In fact, a distribution offering
this functionality might benefit from such functionality, as it attracts
developer interest in the distribution.
It’s sad that Google Code Search will be gone soon. But maybe there’s
something positive in the bad news here, and a chance to create something better,
more comprehensive, that is free, and promotes our ideals better than Google
ever could. Maybe there’s a chance here for the Open Source foundations, for
the distributions and for the communities to create a better replacement!