More on Google and Open Source

In response to Krzysztof Kowalczyk's post entitled Google - we take it all, give nothing back and some of the responses to that post, Adam Bosworth has fired off a missive entitled We all stand on the shoulders of giants. He writes

Recently I pointed out that databases aren't evolving ideally for the needs of modern services and customers who which must support change and massive scale without downtime. This post was savaged by an odd alliance; the shrill invective of the Microsoft apparachiks perhaps sensing an opportunity to take the focus away from Ballmer's remorseless attack on all that is not Microsoft (but most especially on Open Source) and certain Open Source denizens themselves who see fit to attack Google for not "giving back" enough apparently unaware that all software benefits in almost infinite measure from that which comes before. As usual the extremes find common ground in a position that ignores common sense, reason, and civility.
It would seem that these cacophonous critics, yammering about giving back and sweepingly ignoring the 100's of billions of times people use and appreciate what Google gives them for free every day from Search to Scholar to Blogger to gMail to Picasa, do not understand this basic fact.

It seems Adam Bosworth's position is that Google gives back to the Open Source community by not charging for accessing Google or Blogger. This seems to imply that advertising supported services like MSN Search, Hotmail and MSN Spaces are some sort of charity as opposed to the businesses they actually are.

Mr. Bosworth's statements seem to make a number of the observations made by Krzysztof Kowalczyk in his recent post Google - comments on comments more interesting. Krzysztof wrote

More importantly, Chris DiBona, formerly a Slashdot editor and contributor to a book on open source, now a Google employee, calls me ignorant and lazy for not knowing about Google’s open source contributions.

Maybe I am. However:

  • I do follow my share of open source projects (a bad addiction, really) and I’ve never seen a Google employee participating in them. Which, of course, proves nothing but one data point is better than zero.
  • I did ask on my weblog for pointers to Google’s contributions. Despite temporary popularity of my blog, no-one sent me any.
  • I’ve read all the weblog posts commenting on my piece and no-one else in blogosphere was any less ignorant or lazy.

All that leads me to believe that Google’s contribution, if not a mythical creature, is not that easy to find.

Chris promises a list of Google’s contributions in “coming months". I would rather have it now. The good thing about promising to do something months from today is that you don’t have to do it. You can just rely on the fact that everybody will forget that you’ve made such promise.

I think no additional commentary is necessary. Krzysztof's post and Adam's response speak for themselves.

Comments (6)

  1. Anonymous says:

    » Google vs. Microsoft: Flame War!  InsideMicrosoft – part of the Blog News Channel

  2. Nektar says:

    MSN Spaces: speaking of which isn’t it strange that a modern blog service does not support rss? How come MSN Spaces do not have RSS feeds whilst every other major blog service does? How come MSN Spaces are called revolutionary?

  3. Nektar says:

    Microsoft’s contributions to open source: talking of which they could certainly have been much better. Microsoft can contribute many more libraries to the open source community. What about the MFC and ULT library which will no longer be developed? What about the Common Language Runtime? You wish it to be open source and yet the license is restrictive. If you wish to allow others to build on .NET then why such a restrictive license? It seems that you are only doing half measures. In any case, the Common Language Runtime is developed in open source form by Mono. Why allow the existence of two separate code bases?

  4. I’ve wondered quite a bit as to whether and what Google might lend back in terms of open source. I suspect, for instance, they might have taken some existing open source tools (programming languages, perhaps?) and tweaked them to perform at higher levels for certain requirements.

    I have not come across any such contributions… and I am led to the possibility that Google contributes steathily. This might be necessary to avoid giving away secrets about how they operate to would be competitors.

    So maybe they have goiven back, maybe they have not.

    But isn’t it an interesting business/technology dilema: If you use open source for all its worth at the core of your strategic undertakings, and enhance it, how do you share it back without providing your competitors with intelligence on your operations and initiatives?


    Eric Pederson

  5. Nektar,

    I’m not sure where you heard that MSN Spaces does not support RSS. Anyway that isn’t true. Every MSN Space has an RSS feed. Here’s a link to the one for my space;

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