Do the SO admins have any plans to release the underlying code for SO at all? I appreciate that the code may be part of their competitive advantage, but it strikes me that the underlying system would work for any topic, not just programming.

I am not advocating this, just curious really, but figured it might be under consideration as most of the value in SO is in the questions and answers, which have been released under a relatively open CC license.

  • 3
    Given how much better the Stack Overflow way of doing things is compared to other Q&A forums, I could see there being a business in making the Stack Overflow infrastructure available for customized Q&A forums. (Of course, that's how ArsDigita started...) Commented Aug 10, 2008 at 21:42
  • I dont really need the whole application. I am not going to start my own stack overflow site. What would be great however is if they take some of their most proud sections of the code and show us why and how they did it. When I listen to the podcast I hear a lot of great insights and advice. I would like to see some specific examples based on something I actually use. Part of the open source idea is not just "free" software but the sharing of ideas that goes with it. I would like to see some of Joel's standards in action.
    – Stradas
    Commented Mar 3, 2009 at 14:30
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    See also Will Open Sourcing Stack Overflow Destroy Our Business Model?.
    – avpaderno
    Commented Sep 5, 2010 at 2:48
  • related: Stack Overflow clones, some of them open-source.
    – David Cary
    Commented Oct 19, 2011 at 23:57
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    SO could even be commercially licensed to Enterprises, for hosting any kind of intra-company Q&A forum, even for HR related issues. Recently there was a discussion of having such forum in my company and I immediately thought of SO...
    – Curious
    Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 19:07
  • 2
    @Curious - Thats exactly why I was investigating this, I want a StockOverFlow site internal to my company. They should license it... They would have a lot of competition, but I think they could do it.
    – kralco626
    Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 17:54
  • any suggestions about SO source code?
    – Kiquenet
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 5:43
  • @abel cngprog clone of SO. Here's the working cngprog link. It's written in Django (Python Web Framework).
    – GuruM
    Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 14:10

7 Answers 7


After having given much thought to it during the last 2 years I decided that yes, I will release the stack overflow source code.

Here it is:

static void a() { a(); }

int main()
  • 9
    Made a Java version :) ideone.com/VIpu5 Commented May 12, 2012 at 15:08
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    Thought it was int main() { main(); } Commented Mar 16, 2013 at 16:48
  • 84
    Version of @kelton52 is more resource-efficient, runs faster and is also shorter in code. You see? Releasing the code always results in the community improving upon the original!
    – Joe Pineda
    Commented Jan 27, 2014 at 22:03
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    Looks like it could use a couple more features. Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 21:53
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    Needs more jquery. Commented Aug 12, 2015 at 4:55
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    @kelton52 int main() {main();} is too buggy, keep it like this version. It's really cool.
    – iharob
    Commented Oct 17, 2015 at 6:17
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    I smell a new Code Golf challenge...
    – Andrew
    Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 8:42

Leave it closed source.. for a selfish reason of mine :) Personally I don't want clones popping up and then we have a lot of Q &A sites which I might have to follow. I would rather concentrate on one really good site than on multiple so-so sites.

It's better to have the experts gather in one place than have them scattered between the clone sites.

Maybe open source it after a year from now. I want SO to have the EBay effect. No one can outdo eBay as an auction site.

  • 35
    Actually if one is determined, one can make a clone, regardless if SO is open source or not.
    – Hao Wooi Lim
    Commented Jan 29, 2009 at 17:07
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    There is already one; cnprog, better IMO.
    – Joan Venge
    Commented May 19, 2009 at 18:59
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    @Hao - why stop there? Why not clone Office and become a multi-billionaire? You just need sufficient "determination"
    – MarkJ
    Commented Sep 16, 2009 at 11:48
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    @Joan Venge whats better is that cnprog is open source github.com/cnprog/CNPROG/archives/master
    – abel
    Commented Oct 2, 2010 at 17:26
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    askbot.org might be another possibility. They clearly states that they're inspired by stackoverflow (and yahoo answers).
    – IsaacS
    Commented Jul 23, 2011 at 1:15
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    @MarkJ They are two different things altogether. SO is relatively easier to clone. Its definitely possible to duplicate it, depends on the intended use and yield.
    – Mob
    Commented Sep 12, 2011 at 12:25
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    Was multiple so-so sites. an intended pun? or a happy accident :) Commented Jun 11, 2013 at 17:41
  • @abel working cngprog link. It's written in Django (Python Web Framework).
    – GuruM
    Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 14:09
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    The ebay effect is that there's one incredibly bad site that gathered its popularity with billions of dollars for advertisement and lacks improvements from an open community everywhere you point your eyes... I don't know what you want to refer with this term. Commented Apr 25, 2015 at 18:22
  • It would be really interesting if we could set a SO version to use for internal purposes inside some companies.. at mine, for example, we have a unique platform and it would be heaven if we could have this internal SO version so that users would be sharing their knowledge about the platform, and it would be stored eternally for all inside the company... but.. anyway.. I agree it would be the hell if we had several similars websites available during our searchs... it's better to have it all centralized.. Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 3:43
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    @GuruM The live demo site of the project you linked to behaves as decribed in Beware the Domain Squatters now. Commented Oct 20, 2019 at 0:30

I think they've been pretty noncommittal.

Spolsky: These questions all sort of come back on one another. So what do you think? StackOverflow, open source?

Atwood: I'm torn, because again StackOverflow is very much a commercial venture. Which I guess you could say about ScrewTurn Wiki as well. ScrewTurn Wiki is also commercial. I mean ultimately he wants to get paid for the work he's doing. And I guess I just don't know enough about the repercussions of it to make that decision. I'm not against it by any means. I mean I'm very much pro - as the caller said, Martin said, I'm very much pro open source. And I think I'm just a little nervous, having taken on this project.

Spolsky: But what if somebody cooler than us took that code, and even took, you know, I think we already talked about Creative Commons-ing some of the contributions. So they take the code that we developed, at great expense I'd like to point out - at least six to eight weeks, if not five to seven - and then took all that code and stuff like that, and made another site somewhere that was a better than Stackoverflow. Or it could be called StackDoubleOverflow. It would all be written in English as a second language. And, uh, it would be extremely popular with, say Eastern Europe for example.

Atwood: Right. So that's forking, right? And I have a blog entry about that as well. So the risk was forking is that--


So it might happen, or it might not. It doesn't look like they're dead set either way yet.

Edit: Jeremy found a more recent quote than me. Looks like they're still not committing to anything.

  • 3
    +1 for "six to eight weeks". Even with a post-apocalypse where Jeff had gone this meme's awesome!
    – M.A.R.
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 8:27

I think they said in one of the podcasts (#15 or #16) that they might "open source it" eventually.

Edit: Found it in the Transcript Wiki of Podcast 15:

Atwood: And to their credit these guys are doing this largely out of - I don't want to say the goodness of their heart - but because they know me and they believe in the project so they are sort of contributing some sort of basic sweat equity to the project so it's not like we have this giant pool of venture capital. I mean, this is basically self-funded to this point by: me [laughs]. Um, so, it's sort of a minimalistic endeavour, I mean what I think what we're going to end up with is going to be pretty cool. And it's going to be kind of community effort too where I've been posting on the blog about what we're doing and trying to solicit input and things like that. Eventually we might open source the code as well. But it's not like we have this giant pool of venture capital money like some companies, it's very much a small endeavour that we're taking on. But that said, people will start trickling into the beta before, before the end of the month now so that's where we are because people keep asking and I just wanted to address that.

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    The question is when eventually ? and why not now ?
    – Francesco
    Commented Aug 8, 2012 at 15:26
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    Almost 10 years later.. ;-)
    – Mitja
    Commented Nov 6, 2017 at 15:43
  • Almost 15 years later...
    – Anonymous
    Commented Mar 4, 2022 at 22:58

That probably makes good sense to wait for a while to establish a significant user base and get a head start on competitors before open sourcing the code. At that point, it won't matter if someone creates a stackdoubleoverflow.com if this site gains critical mass.

Just look at all the ways that Twitter screws up yet everyone is still there. If Twitter open sourced their code, it wouldn't hurt them a bit. After all, there are already twitter clones out there, but people want to be where their friends are.

So get everyone and their friends here, and then open source it. :)

  • I think you are also only rationalizing. No clear arguments, so you got a -1.
    – peterh
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 17:11
  • @peterh you're giving -1 for that, but you're ok with the retarded answer by Andreas Bonini up there?
    – Arturas M
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 13:25
  • @ArturasM No. He also got a down and also a flag. If I could have given him 42 downs, I had.
    – peterh
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 15:43

Aside from releasing source the alternative would be to license stackoverflow. I would push for a purchase in my org.

It is a great way to organically build a knowledge base over time, and I think that piece is missing in a lot of places - especially stovepipe orgs. Given the competitive nature of the badge system it would encourage average employees to contribute their knowledge for recognition - which would help break down information barriers.

As a programmer I could go to a LAN instance of SO for my org about... say accounting, ask an accounting question, and get answers from people in 4 divisions, that would be awesome.

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    This is exactly what I was thinking and how I ended up here on this question. Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 9:48
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    FogCreek offers a private license. It's very expensive. They may have changed their pricing since we spoke to them (like 10 months ago) but what they offered us was a $60K per year per instance subscription. They might be willing to negotiate with certain types of organizations. See: Is the Stack Exchange engine available?
    – HAL9000
    Commented Jan 13, 2012 at 18:03
  • We're trying out OSQA now. It's not even remotely close on maturity and unfortunately for us is not ASP.Net but it works. The project is run by some devs at DZone and seems to have some problems attracting outside help.
    – HAL9000
    Commented Jan 13, 2012 at 18:08
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    Getting a response from HR or accounting..now that is an idea i could back. Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 21:05
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    @Abhishek Asthana It's a nice idea but unfortunately it breaks down when you're not really in egalitarian environments. My attempt to make this work at my current organization failed because executives were worried it could disrupt standard channels for policy information. They could not be convinced.
    – HAL9000
    Commented Feb 21, 2014 at 1:30
  • @HAL9000 have you looked at tibbr.com its not SO but it works...I have seen this in action. Commented Feb 21, 2014 at 15:58
  • I simply don't understand, and won't decipher - maybe you had to elaborate. But doesn't seem very bad, so you don't get -1, but +1 also not.
    – peterh
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 17:14

From the Area 51 faq page:

Do you offer "white-label" or subscription hosting for Stack Exchange sites?

Unfortunately, we no longer offer a subscription service or license the software to host Stack Exchange sites. Stack Exchange sites can only be created via the democratic, community-driven process at Area 51. We offer neither “white-label” services, nor the ability to bypass Area 51 to create sites through partnerships.

  • 7
    It is okay, but it is not about source code but about subscription hosting. They are different things, so you got a -1.
    – peterh
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 17:11

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