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Open source programmer service launches

Cosource, one of several new companies trying to make a profit by harnessing the effort of so-called open source programmers, formally begins operations.

Cosource, one of several new companies trying to make a profit by harnessing the effort of so-called open source programmers, will formally begin operations today.

The company's Web site has been in beta testing since August, but today Cosource will unveil a new version with improved pages and the ability to rank the qualifications of the programmers who sign up to participate, chief executive Bernie Thompson said in an interview.

Cosource serves as a meeting point where people who want a programming project done can find programmers to do the job. Cosource takes a fraction of the money that changes hands, but it hardly has a corner on the market.

The company will compete for attention with Sourcexchange, a Hewlett-Packard-initiated site that has won an investment from Benchmark Capital, and Open Avenue, which has attracted the attention of database company Oracle and is seeking investment funding. The Free Software Bazaar, meanwhile, has been in operation for months.

More broadly, Cosource represents an instance of a business trying to benefit from the open source movement, in which programming instructions are freely shared instead of tightly guarded. Linux, which has spawned successful initial public offerings by Red Hat and Cobalt Networks, is the best-known example of open source software.

Cosource is intended to help steer the open source programming effort in the direction that software users want instead of just the direction that programmers are interested in, Thompson said.

Four of the 10 projects under way at Cosource so far have been completed, he said. "I would predict probably 10- to 20-fold the number of projects running six months from now," he said.

The payments to the programmers have ranged from $10 to $1,100, but within two years Cosource wants to increase the usual price tag to about $10,000.

The company has five employees but expects to increase that number to 10 in six months and 20 in a year, Thompson said. "We intend to be a small, efficient company," he said.

The new employees mostly will work toward attracting new projects from companies, he said.

Thompson expects about half the projects on Cosource to be Linux-related and the rest to be other open source projects.