Google has opened the doors to a hosting service aimed at open-source projects. The service is similar to SourceForge, dominant in the open source project hosting area, but Google says it isn't meant to be a direct competitor.

The service, called simply "Project Hosting," is based on the Subversion revision control system, but has been rebuilt with some new features - notably that it stores data in Big Table, a massively scalable in-house storage technology at Google.

Project Hosting is part of Google Code, Google's initiative aimed at grabbing the interest of developers through publishing APIs and the source code of Google projects, sponsoring coding contests and other activities. The Google projects will all be hosted at Project Hosting.

Google said Project Hosting is different from other options because it focuses on the needs of open source projects, as opposed to large or corporate projects. An example is a new take on issue tracking, which uses Google's full text search to simplify the mechanism.

Google is also attempting to take a stand against the proliferation of open source licences - an issue many have raised in recent months - by allowing the use of only seven licences.

The company said licences for Apache, Artistic, GNU General Public, GNU Lesser GPL, Mozilla, BSD, and MIT should cover most developers' needs.

The service doesn't yet have all its features in place, with a file download system missing, for example.

Even when complete, Project Hosting is aiming for a more stripped-down set of features, rather than the proliferation of advanced features offered by a service like SourceForge, making it mainly suitable for smaller projects, Google said.

Google engineering manager Greg Stein announced the service at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON) in Portland, Oregon. In a former position at CollabNet, Stein had worked on Subversion.