A few days ago Prosus, a European tech investment firm, announced they had entered into an agreement to acquire one of the world’s most visited sites, Stack Overflow for US$1.8 billion. The site has become an invaluable tool for developers worldwide. The company’s co-founder Joel Spolsky wrote a post reassuring users things won’t be changing anytime soon. With Stack Overflow’s CEO echoing the same in an official announcement.
How you use our site and our products will not change in the coming weeks or months, just as our company’s goals and strategic priorities remain the same.
However we’ve heard this before, and as much as people running the show at Stack Overflow wish for things to remain the same, sometimes that doesn’t turn out to be the case.
What some people in the tech-developer community fear is that Stack Overflow adopts a more aggressive revenue generating stance. This could be implemented in various ways, all which could ultimately lead to answers being hidden behind paywalls. Stack Overflow currently incentivizes users to answer questions by rewarding them with points and badges. Active users take pride in the amount and quality of the help they provide, and this model has worked fantastically for the community.
Chances are, if you are running into a problem, someone else probably already did as well and their question got answered and resolved. Even if that is not the case, most questions get responses from people trying to help with a solution mere minutes after questions get posted. As a developer, when I am faced with a problem my journey often begins with Bing, and more often than not, the top result is from Stack Overflow.
So where does this concern come from? Well most people are probably not that familiar with Prosus itself, however you’ve most likely heard about products and services associated with them. Most of them are monetized very differently from Stack Overflow. For example Brainly, Codecademy and Udemy.
I don’t see things changing much in the near future, from a technical perspective it would take time to implement a paywall system on top of the current Stack Overflow experience. I understand there are bills to be paid, and the site doesn’t run itself, however I hope they find creative ways to keep cash coming in without impacting the tech community by making the information it contains harder to access for those without the means to pay for it.
What do you all think about this acquisition? Are you worried things might change for the worse? Would you mind paying a fee to post questions or read quality answers?