Open Source

Finish this sentence: "I ________ Google"

Jack Wallen explains why he thinks Google is, indeed, a friend to the open source community, even though many people have negative feedback about its efforts. Do you have a beef with Google?

Over the weekend it was announced that Google was releasing a Javascript optimizer to open source (called "Closure Tools"). As I read the accounts of this news, I also read comments from various and sundry people. What really surprised me is that so many Linux and open source users/fans still hate Google. Maybe I am an anomaly within the Linux/open source community, but I happen to respect and appreciate Google for all it has done for the open source community. I realize (and respect) that everyone is entitled to their opinion, but let's take a look at what Google has done for both Linux and the open source community.

  • Closure Tools: open source Javascript optimizer.
  • Summer of Code: Yearly event that gives selected students a stipend to write code for open source projects.
  • Chrome: It's not open source, but it has given Linux one of the fastest browsing experiences to date.
  • Android: An almost fully open source mobile operating system that is giving the iPhone a run for its money.
  • One of the largest hosting providers for open source projects (almost 250,000 projects hosted).
  • Contributes patches to the Linux kernel.
  • Thousands upon thousands of open source contributions (see them listed in 777 pages here).
  • Uses a hardened version of the Linux operating system for their data centers (proving Linux does scale).

And much more. But, honestly, it's that last bit that makes you realize that, even indirectly, Google is one of the major contributors to the open source movement. Google is, without a doubt, one of the largest data centers in the world. And having that data center run on Linux should go a long way to prove the scalability of Linux (one issue the Microsoft FUD machine tries very hard to disprove.)

But even with all of the contributions Google makes to Linux and open source, it seems the community they try so hard to help hates them. Any time I cover a Google-related story the feedback always astounds me. It seems a thread inevitably begins about how much Google shuns the Linux/open source community.

Oh, sure they haven't fully released the Android OS, but that is on the way. And the code for Chromium is available to any developer here. So, I ask again...why do you hate Google? Especially when their are so many other companies out there who deserve your ire. Two come instantly to mind: Microsoft and Apple.

Let's take a look at news from the weekend. One tidbit in particular that came about indicating GPL code was found in a portion of Windows 7. Although this wasn't a huge case of theft, if it turns out to be 100% verified that means Microsoft is using code illegally. Ooooh...big surprise there. And even though Apple has an open source-like license (check out Apple Open Source)  why is it their products (like the iPhone or iTouch) refuse to work with open source tools? Why don't they open up those backends so Amarok, Banshee, Songbird, or Rhythmbox can sync with their toys?

I would venture to say that Google is doing more for the open source community than just about any other company on the planet (save for the likes of Canonical, Red Hat, Mandriva, and Novell.) But how would the tables turn if Google did finally release a version of Linux? Would that change everyone's mind? Would the open source community finally scream "uncle!" and admit that Google has the open source community's best interest in mind?

What about you? Fill in the blank: I ________ Google. Was your answer "hate"? If so, why? I would have to say my answer would be "I am thankful for Google".

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website

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