How does Stack Overflow compare to Yahoo! Answers, Experts-Exchange, ProgrammingTalk etc.? I want to know the critics! Why is Stack Overflow the best? What is the reasoning behind it? Is it a secret? What is the patent number? Why isn't it open source?

  • 10
    Errm, what exactly is your question?
    – fretje
    Apr 4, 2010 at 2:41
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    I find the closing reason strange here. I could somewhat understand Closed as not constructive (although I disagree), but the notion that the question What makes us different? is unlikely to help future visitors or extraordinary narrow I find strange. To the contrary, I was surprised not to find this question answered in the FAQ...
    – gerrit
    Nov 5, 2012 at 14:50
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    Why is this closed as being "Too localized"?
    – puretppc
    Jan 30, 2014 at 20:15

3 Answers 3


Joel Spolsky has said on the podcast (sorry don't feel like looking up references) that the main inspiration to create this site was the crappiness of Experts-Exchange: the way they came up on Google results but when you clicked through you didn't actually get any results. The other major inspiration is that so often a Google search would lead to outdated information on message boards. On Stack Overflow, the idea is that the voting mechanism lets the best answers always be on top. And everything is editable in a wiki-like fashion so that outdated information can be updated. Also, the creative commons license was inspired by sites/projects like experts exchange, cddb, imdb, etc, that started off as collaborative, community-generated content but then all of a sudden someone owned it all. With the creative commons license, SO doesn't own all the user-generated content on the site, and the complete data is available in monthly data dumps.

Here's a good video where Joel goes over a lot of this while talking to developers at Google: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWHfY_lvKIQ

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    Correction: The inspiration for this site was the extreme crappiness of ExpertSexChange.
    – Aarobot
    Apr 4, 2010 at 4:07
  • @Aaronaught: thanks, clarified
    – Kip
    Apr 4, 2010 at 23:19

I'm not going to repeat myself from this answer, so I'll just quote myself :)

Please ignore the sarcasm. The original person was trying to get an Open source version of SO and I really get annoyed at those people. The dev team put hard work into the product, and they should reap the rewards.


The software behind StackOverflow is not open source. Many people don't like that. This is because everyone on the internet expects things to be free. Unfortunately, Jeff and Joel buy into the idea that when you put effort into making something that gets really popular, you deserve to eat, sleep in a house, and generally be able to make a living.

Of course, many people do not subscribe to this theory, and they have attempted to clone StackOverflow. Some people claim it can be done overnight, and some people have actually done things that are similar to StackOverflow. However, they do not have the polish or the community that StackOverflow has, so they are not really that great. You can read Jeff's post on this subject, and you will quickly realize why these don't work.


  • So sarcasm is your way of addressing your annoyance with pro open source / pro linux users? Nice.
    – Locutus
    Apr 4, 2010 at 4:07
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    @Qui For some reason you threw 'pro linux' in there. You clearly didn't really read anything, you're just trying to find a way to insult me. Have fun, I have many flaws. If you'd like me to list them all so you can amuse yourself insulting me, I'd be happy to. Apr 4, 2010 at 4:23
  • @Qui Maybe I'll create a database about them. Then I'll just send you a data dump of it. Because that is what we are actually suppose to be talking about? Right? Programming, Not My Flaws. Get over yourself and find someone else to annoy. Apr 4, 2010 at 4:26
  • Wow...umm.. no I just meant linux = open source. My apologies, if you were insulted or annoyed (hopefully the user your sarcasm was directed at wasnt insulted or annoyed with you). Hope your night gets better.
    – Locutus
    Apr 4, 2010 at 4:54
  • @chacha102 What are you going to use for that database? Your resume says you like mysql.... isnt that open source? :P (sorry man, I couldnt resist)
    – Locutus
    Apr 4, 2010 at 5:03
  • @chacha102, we're on your side! Apr 5, 2010 at 22:10
  • @chacha102 I'm just trying to understand SO, because I want to be an inventor. Apr 6, 2010 at 23:01

It's better.....

No Patent.

It's not open-source because someone owns it.

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