Openbase (YC S20) – reviews and insights for open-source packages

Hi everyone! I'm Lior, one of the makers of Openbase (https://openbase.io). We help developers choose the right JS package for any task - through user reviews and insights about packages' popularity, reliability, activity and more.

I have started Openbase out of my own frustration as a developer: there are 1.3 million JavaScript packages out there, and I found myself spending an increasing amount of time researching and evaluating packages every time I wanted to accomplish a task - displaying an autocomplete, sending an HTTP request, extracting significant keywords from an page, etc. Each time I would make that research, I spent hours reading different blogposts comparing those packages, going over PRs and commit messages to see how active the development or maintainers are, and trying to cross-reference data from npm and GitHub to get to a decision.

We started by gathering data from npm and GitHub - from versions and dependencies, to commits, pull requests, maintainers and tried to figure out what insights we could surface that could help us (and fellow developers) choose the right package. We ended up adding automated insights like star count over time, commit frequency, time between major/minor versions, average time to resolve issues and PRs, percent of commits by the community, dependency insights, and more. Here's what the insights page looks like: https://openbase.io/js/react

We decided not to stop there, and allow our users to discover the best packages for performing each task and compare them side-by-side. We've already manually curated several hundreds categories, such as CSS frameworks, OAuth packages, and HTTP request libraries: https://openbase.io/packages/best-javascript-css-framework-l... On the long term, we want to build tools that will allow the community to curate and maintain categories, and get to thousands of categories for any imaginable task.

Lastly, over the past couple of weeks we decided to try something more ambitious - we want to let developers rate and review open-source packages. While data and metrics are great, we found ourselves often consulting with friends and colleagues about which package to use. We think reviews could reveal a lot of insights that cannot be deduced by looking at metrics alone. To throw in even more fun to the mix, we added badges like "Great documentation", "Performant", and "Hard to use" (check it out: https://openbase.io/js/vue), and are looking for ideas for more badges.

We found that many maintainers want to promote their packages, and unfortunately, there aren't good ways of doing so today. This is a problem for new package maintainers who are having a hard time getting those first thousand users, an API/SaaS company that wants to earn developers' mindshare, or a software firm that wants to showcase their expertise. We've started by allowing package maintainers to claim their package page, and giving them the tools to promote it for free. In the future, we want to allow for paid promotion of packages - limiting it to a single, clearly-marked promoted package for each category. We would just surface the promoted package, but the package ratings, reviews, insights, and metrics are obviously untouched. We believe this kind of balanced approach could make Openbase a sustainable company, while not impairing the user experience.

In the good ol' 90s, when I made my first steps with JavaScript, and it was all about small scripts to make web pages a bit more interactive. I can't believe two decades later, the JavaScript ecosystem has gotten so huge and complicated, that we've actually built a startup to help you navigate this mess. Strange world, isn't it?

We would really love to hear your feedback about Openbase, and in particular about the reviews feature. How would you go about making the reviews a force for good, and making sure reviews are helpful for other developers and the community at large?



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andrey azimov by Andrey Azimov