Why Google likes open source


Google's Open Source Progam Manager, Chris DiBona has answered to Gnome's marketing list why GOOG likes open source. Story comes from qgils blog

1) We like open source.
2) We like open source people, including Gnomers (gnomites? Gnomes?)
3) We use open source.
4) We are open source people.
5) We felt open source needs a little fresh blood now and then. *
6) We felt that there were a lot of students who would work on open
source, if they didn't have to flip burgers.

I am finding it bloody difficult to figure out number 6 and would like a bit more explanation on number 5. The answer seemingly came in 30 minutes but it would be interesting to hear a more thought out answer.


i think the real reason

i think the real reason google likes open source is that embracing it allows them to attack and commoditize companies whose business model revolves around selling proprietary software -- i.e. MSFT.

> 6) We felt that there were

> 6) We felt that there were a lot of students who would work on open source, if they didn't have to flip burgers.

That is, make a living.


Maybe that was #7 but the message got cut off.

All wrong

They only like OSS because they can exploit it. For free. Period. Never gave anything back to the community, those people. Nada. And that's speaking politely.

I should qualify that with a nice list. I'll leave out the numbers, though.

  • When was the last time any Google product was free, as in libre? Open source?
  • How many software developers have they got inhouse?
  • Just how much open source software do they release?
  • Are the standard TOS on Google products and API's anything like "open"?
  • Having developers "code jam" for you for free - who benefits?
  • Have they ever donated anything but money? To anyone?
  • Is their preferred modus operandi not to hire people?
  • Would you think employees had non-disclosure agreements, and other constraints?
  • When Google is seeking out the better OSS developers and hiring them, who really benefits? OSS as such?
  • Just what is the main ingredient in all Google products, but OSS?
  • Have they ever acted in accordance with any licenses requiring open release back of any changes?
  • Have they ever actively donated anything but speech and money? Anything truly valuable, that is?
  • In particular: Have they ever donated any software to the open domain? Any OSS?
  • Did Google even release a creative commons search?
  • Is it really easy to develop up against Google products? Do they really, like, encourage that? Seriously?
  • Would you honestly consider Google products and services to be "open" or "severely restrained, bordering on state secrets"? Honestly?

... I could go on. As could anyone. It really is that obvious. The concepts "Open" and "Google" are simply incommensurable.

I do understand why some employees would perhaps have a bad taste in their mouth about all this, and seek to remedy the situation somewhat with the only means they apparently know about (ie. money), but don't tell me that they've ever actively done anything for the OSS movement as such. That's just not true.

correction to last post

As always I'm happy to admit when I'm wrong.

It so happens that the Google Code website actually has this list of on-going Open Source projects officially released by Google.

So, there is something, not nothing. It's still very very little (with 5,000 highly skilled employees one could argue that it was close to nothing), so I'm not going to edit the listing above, only point out that it's not 100% accurate.

erm, does that matter?

I really don't see the argument here...

A company makes use of code which is available to use free of charge. The spirit of making use of that code is that you return useful developments to the community.

But the company actually uses that code to assist with doing things with its own data - that is - what they actually do with the code isn't hugely different from what any other competent developer can do with it - the thing that makes them different is the concepts, data or formula applied by that code.

So since they clearly won't hand over those things which arent open source and make them unique, instead they donate hard cash and mentoring skills to repay the opensource community.

On the search side; there are any number of people out there can programme a SE in theory, just they don't have the cash to market and sustain it or the Google algo to apply to their filters (if you'd actually want to apply the same one if building a new engine of course).

I mean fine, perhaps its clearly not what *you'd* personally wish for but they seem to be repaying their debt to society to me. How many website owners use MySQL and never give any benefit back to the community? Generally speaking they consider their debt repaid if they fling $50 into the donations pot somewhere and you're not upset with them....

I'm not a programmer so perhaps I'm missing some secret handshake or similar but is it really this big a deal?

>> is it really this big a

>> is it really this big a deal?

Probably not.

But, if they want to market themselves as developers of open source, or anything remotely like an open source company, then that is a false claim. As in:

We are open source people.

That is bullshit.

Consumers of open source, yes, but that's it. And that's not bad as such - not even a big deal (donations welcome) - but it's very different from being part of the open source community.

not the same thing

most of those users of mysql are not programmers themselves, nor do they employ programmers, and they do not proclaim themselves as open source partners.

fair enough.

but, google does have lots of programmer types on staff, they also attempt to use the open source mantra to add to their cachet.

trade secrets and algo's aside, i am sure that they have produced many modifications and extensions to open source code that are useful but not central to their core mission. i have not yet seen any of this become widely available.

a prime example is their widely publicised bucket file system. it is described publicly in great detail. probably enough detail to reproduce it with enough effort. but, it has never been released to my knowledge.

internal bug patches? nope never seen those either.

i am a closed sourcer who has read, hunted and studied a great deal of open source code for research purposes. unlike google, i make no claims to the contrary.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.