Ilija Studen, a developer based in Serbia, has released an open source project management tool called activeCollab that is strongly based on Basecamp from 37signals. Ilija was inspired by the post “Being 37signals for Free”, on Wisdump in April of this year, in which the author wondered why nobody had yet tried to duplicate the 37signals products and give them away for free or undercut their prices.
I’m a big fan of the products 37signals creates and use all of them, unfortunately I don’t use any of them enough to justify to myself paying for the paid service (though I’m always tempted to). While 37signals products are hosted and maintained by them, activeCollab requires you to install, host and maintain it on your own server. That fact alone will prevent a mass migration from basecamp to activeCollab. Since it is open source though, somebody could use it to provide a hosted version. I wonder how long it will be until that happens?
Installing activeCollab was extremely easy if you have any experience with WordPress or other open source php/mysql applications. Download. Unzip. Stick it on a server and tell it where your database is and you’re ready to go.
If you’ve been looking for a simple online project management tool and can handle the installation, activeCollab is likely a good place for you to start. It looks and behaves a lot like Basecamp does. In the limited amount that I’ve used it since yesterday I have to say I’m pretty impressed. Will activeCollab put 37signals out of business or even scare them? At this point I don’t think so. But if activeCollab sees some traction expect more developers to build more free knock-offs of the popular 37signals applications.
It will be interesting to see where this goes and if 37signals starts adding features (like they are doing already by integrating all their apps) that aren’t as easily duplicated. Competition is good though and until now nobody was really providing 37signals with any competition. Game on!