Andover.Net this week purchased Freshmeat.net, a popular Linux Web site, following its June acquisition of Slashdot.org, a discussion site frequented by fans of the upstart operating system. Terms of the deals were not disclosed.
The acquisitions, coupled with the rush to hire Linux programmers, provide further evidence of the growing monetary worth of those who have built up Linux expertise. The portals are becoming major destinations for people curious about the Windows alternative born from the computing counterculture.
Momentum will likely build as companies and developers increasingly improve Linux and make it easier for novices to use.
Linux is an open-source operating system, meaning that anyone may see and modify the original programming instructions. The technology is based on Unix and has inherited that operating system's strength in servers. However, many efforts are underway to make it work for consumers as well, a move that would expose Linux to a potentially much larger market.
Andover.Net plans to make money from the acquisition by selling advertising, chief executive Bruce Twickler said in an interview. With the Freshmeat and Slashdot sites, Andover.Net will receive an estimated 16 million to 20 million page impressions a month, he said. That number should increase to 25 million to 30 million by the end of September with marketing and upgrades to Freshmeat's servers, Twickler added.
Founded in 1997 by Patrick Lenz, Freshmeat features announcements and discussions of Linux software. Lenz will maintain editorial control over the site--the same deal afforded to Rob Malda and Jeff Bates, the founders of Slashdot.
Andover.Net, which provides information to programmers and Web page designers, embarked on a Linux strategy earlier this year, Twickler said. "The largest growth area is Linux," he said.
Indeed, Linux portals are a booming business. Red Hat, a leading Linux seller that just went public this week, plans to set up a site with dozens of employees working on providing news, as well as technical and educational content.
Advertising revenues from the Web site totaled $80,000 in the quarter ending May 31, the newly public company said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. While that was only 2.9 percent of the company's revenue, the company expects its portal to become more significant.
VA Linux Systems took a very different approach to its Linux portal, Linux.com, a domain name the company acquired in a bidding war this year. For VA, the Linux.com site is more of a goodwill effort by which it hopes to encourage Linux fans to think of VA as a strong Linux supporter, company executives have said.
Caldera Systems, another U.S. seller of Linux, said it also has portal plans.
With the new acquisitions, "We are de facto the largest Linux destination on the Internet," Twickler said.
Other companies' numbers appear to bear out this claim. VA has said its Linux.com Web site receives about 12 million page views month. By comparison, Red Hat's page, which is more tightly tied to its business model, received 1.25 million in March, the company said.