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SO is not Open-Source, but I like the whole idea of Stack Overflow :

  1. Giving bounties for Questions
  2. Up/Downvoting Questions
  3. The Badges
  4. The intelligent use of Ajax-Technologies
  5. Highly Rated users have administrative powers
  6. Reputation system
  7. Editing posts like a wiki

So I would like to program a (what is it called) Q&A site / board / wiki system. Am I allowed to?

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Notice: This question comes from before the Area51 days. –  badp Jul 31 '10 at 12:45
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@badp - what does that mean? –  Ronnie Overby Sep 9 '10 at 18:13
    
@Ronnie: preemptive comment about some answers that no longer apply. –  badp Sep 9 '10 at 19:07
    
Related: Stack Overflow clones –  Martijn Pieters Dec 10 '13 at 10:48
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10 Answers 10

The ruling in Lotus v. Borland answered that look & feel (or method of operation) is not copyrightable.

Code is copyrightable. I assume this includes the HTML, CSS, Javascript that you can see by viewing the StackOverflow pages. Names and logos can also be trademarked.

So as long as you write original code, and don't use the trademarked identity of StackOverflow, you could write your own workalike application.

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Yes, but it is patentable, at least in the US... I wonder if the SO guys have any software patents in the works... –  Paul McMillan Oct 31 '10 at 18:50
    
You should add images to HTML, CSS, JavaScript. –  Quandary Jun 12 '11 at 21:30
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@Quandary: Right, images are copyrightable, even though they are not code. –  Bill Karwin Jun 13 '11 at 4:45
    
+1 Absolutely correct –  Debjit Jun 27 '11 at 19:06
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StackOverflow was not the first to do the Q&A system on the web, and they weren't the first to do the Wiki system. There is nothing really stopping you from making your own StackOverflow style website. Some open source clones (and some foreign clones) have already been made to varying degrees of success.

There have been rumors of a possible open-source version of StackOverflow, but I would not hold my breath on that just yet.

The other solution would be the StackExchange framework which is developed by Fog Creek Software. The SE Framework is the public-available version of the StackOverflow software.

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The reason that StackOverflow succeeds is because of the community, and the fact that the software it runs on make it a real pleasure to answer questions. It is hard to duplicate that. –  Tyler Carter Jul 29 '09 at 5:08
    
open source version of StackOverflow you said ! any update on that ? –  Yasser Apr 27 '12 at 7:41
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Why reinvent the wheel? Purchase a StackExchange account...

UPDATE 5/27/2011

  • This is no longer a possibility
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StackExchange is super expensive for the typical online community. Though Joel said he's looking for a way to offer ad-subsidized versions, nothing official has been announced. –  Kyle Cronin Jul 17 '09 at 15:15
    
Yeah, thats true... Can't argue with the it... Overall though, "inventing" Stack Overflow is not cheap... –  RSolberg Jul 17 '09 at 15:18
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@RSolberg: True, but some sites have cloned it with moderate success. CNProg, in particular, is quite impressive. –  Kyle Cronin Jul 17 '09 at 15:22
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StackExchange also does not support non-English sites. –  Thilo Dec 10 '09 at 1:44
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BTW, it is not possible anymore! –  fabien7474 Jul 31 '10 at 16:20
    
It was an interesting experiment while it lasted. –  tadman Jan 21 '11 at 19:45
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Technically, I don't believe they can stop you from writing your own code which does that. You just can't copy their code base and use it.

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There is open source clone of stackoverflow http://www.osqa.net/ written on django.

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I just found this site myself, it is soooo similar to SO, I came here to meta and searched for "OSQA" to see if it has been mentioned and that is how I found this topic here. So I am assuming this was made AFTER SO network was made? Bummer it is not in PHP whic is what I know much better, I want to make a PHP version which could use the actual SO databae DUMP files for a personal project (mostly to learn but also to add some of my own ideas to it too and have an offline version) –  jasondavis May 19 '10 at 19:26
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There are already a couple of projects out there to clone the StackOverflow platform. One is used for the Chinese language site CNProg.com. It is written in Python/Django and can be found on GitHub. The other that I know of is stacked. It is written in C#.

Joel and Jeff have discussed the possibility of Open Sourcing the code for the platform at some point, though there is no firm consensus except that it won't be happening for several years, if ever.

Joel's software company Fog Creek hopes is offering a hosted version of the platform called StackExchange, which they hope will be available by Sept. 2009.

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I don't think there will be any OPENSOURCE version of SO, caz its pretty much popular now, and so both (Joel & Jeff and Fog Creek) will make money with it. Caz all they want is money, nothing for community, they know if they'll not offer it through community, then they'll never be able to beat EXPERT-EXCHANGE :) –  Prashant Aug 22 '09 at 18:53
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Of course you can. There are clones for a wiki, a digg like site and Expert-Exchange. Nothing special about SO that you can't do something similar. Q&A site is not a patented model

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Obviously I can't officially speak for StackOverflow, but as long as you don't use any of the styling (HTML, CSS, etc), code (JavaScript), the logo, or the names "StackOverflow", "ServerFault", and "SuperUser" you should be fine. It's also important that you create a separate "look and feel" (even if you didn't use any of the HTML/CSS) as that may also protected.

The concepts of tags, voting, related questions, and badges did not originate here and are not protected, so feel free to use them.

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"Look and feel" is not protected by copyright, see Apple Computer, Inc. vs Microsoft Corporation (1994) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… –  Dan Grossman Jan 28 '11 at 8:48
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The concept (i.e. a Q&A site) is not copyrightable / trademarkable. The implementation is. And a clone that copy the look and feel would violate passing off.

Unless you live in a country with software patents (hmm USA), the individual features are not patentable either. If you are however, then the answer is the good old "it depends".

p.s. IANAL and all that.

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It's not just a question of what laws are in place, but what laws the respective owners will hold you to. I'm sure Atwood & co. would be more than happy to answer any questions if you just asked them directly.

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