In a few months, we will start evaluating the first community-created sites to see if they have enough traffic to leave beta and become a full site. It's too early to apply actual numbers to that decision but it will almost certainly be some combination traffic and how fast questions are answered. We use the term "question liquidity" and it is the key to measuring the success or failure of a Stack Exchange site.
We decided early in this process that we did not want to disrupt any communities that were already working. So we decided that we would evaluate SE 1.0 sites using the same criteria as SE 2.0 sites leaving beta. Issues of defining the actual minimal traffic requirements aside, there will be a single, generic set of criteria for continuing a site. And those criteria are going to apply to SE 1.0 and SE 2.0 sites equally.
What does that mean for SE 1.0 Sites?
That means any site that maintains enough traffic will be allowed to continue. SE 1.0 sites owners meeting the minimum criteria will have a choice:
- Continue for free under the same terms as SE 1.0 for as long as they maintain the traffic levels.
- Migrate directly into SE 2.0 as a fully-fledged SE 2.0 site.
Continuing as an SE 1.0 Site
Owners who chose to remain an SE 1.0 site will operate under the same basic terms of SE 1.0, namely:
- The site owner owns everything. They are free to accept advertisements or modify their site as they see fit under the current terms of service.
- The site remains on the SE 1.0 software. No further enhancements are planned for that platform, except for urgent bug fixes.
There are a few issues that differ from the previous system:
- The site will remain free for as long as it maintains the minimum traffic criteria.
- Sites that don't maintain enough traffic will get put on notice and eventually shut down.
- Sites will not be part of the new Stack Exchange Network. They will be independently owned and operated as a 3rd-party service.
How much traffic will an SE 1.0 site need?
It is simply too early to apply numbers to the process. The SE 2.0 sites haven't even launched, yet, but I felt it was important to present these options to site owners as soon as possible. There will be a lot of traffic on the new Stack Exchange Network so expect the minimum traffic bar to be set pretty high. But we don't want to overestimate traffic levels either, and shut down many good sites in the process. That puts us in the difficult position of not being able to provide a lot of the specifics this early on.
But decision to migrate or not is many months away. That gives everyone plenty of time to either build up their traffic or consider the alternatives.
When will sites be able to migrate?
Once the community-created sites start leaving beta, SE 1.0 sites will be asked to decide if they wish to consider migration. Migration of sites will occur all at once. This is a one-time event, not an on-going process. The schedule and procedure will go something like this:
- First SE 2.0 sites go to beta.
- (one month later...) SE 1.0 sites wishing to be considered for SE 2.0 will sign up on a list. This does not obligate them to become SE 2.0 sites but sites not applying for SE 2.0 will not be considered.
- (one month later...) We gather traffic data for all sites on that list and notify SE 1.0 sites meeting minimum traffic criteria.
- (one month later...) Deadline for them to accept or decline.
- (2-4 weeks later...) Closing (we move all the sites)
Becoming an SE 2.0 Site
Sites opting to migrate directly to SE 2.0 do so under the same terms as any community-created site, namely:
- Sites are owned by Stack Overflow Inc. There is no co-ownership of sites, commercial relationships, or revenue sharing.
- SE 2.0 sites are run by the community. We will make every effort to accommodate former site owners' wishes to moderate the early site but no special relationships, like appointing someone Administrator of the site for life, will be considered.
- Sites will be installed and run on the Stack Exchange Network using the SE 2.0 software. We will make every effort to maintain much of the original site name/design but we may need to make changes in the design to accommodate the SE 2.0 branding and functionality.
- SE 2.0 sites will be expected to maintain the minimum traffic criteria or be shut down.
These issues will all be discussed with site owners and the specifics spelled out on a case-by-case basis.
We don't want to simply migrate SE 1.0 sites that are struggling or are just getting started. The Stack Exchange Network is for sites that already have a significant commitment of traffic. The entire proposal and commitment process is designed to build up that momentum for a successful first day's launch. That's why I believe the vast, vast majority of legacy sites would be better off going through the proposal and commitment process. It builds up a renewed interest in the site.
For site owners interested in submitting a proposal to the community, we will keep their previous site open throughout the process so the data is not lost. Users will love the reputation boost they get from asking their favorite question on the new, larger system. But we will not be able to migrate users or questions piecemeal. The code and databases are different and there's no association between users on the old system and the new network. In short, we don't want to start your shiny, new site off with initial problems and bad data.