DiBona on Google's Open Source Philosophy

Lora Bentley

Google often gets a bad rap when it comes to "open source citizenship" because many don't think the company gives back as much open source code as it uses. And its lack of support for the Affero General Public License (AGPL) v3 doesn't help matters. But as News.com writer Stephen Shankland found, Google's open source program manager, Chris DiBona, isn't all that worried about what open source businesses or open source evangelists think about Google. His philosophy is to focus on the open source developers:

I asked myself, "Who am I trying to address?" The world of open-source business? No. The world of the open-source enthusiast? No. I'm really looking to work with open-source developers. We came up with these goals for our group: to support open-source development in general, which means to support open-source infrastructure; support the release of open-source code, from Google and in general; and to create more open-source developers....

That's what Google's Summer of Code program is about, DiBona says -- making sure the college students who want to spend a summer programming rather than at some completely unrelated job, have a place to do that.

 

Nonetheless, the company does use "a ton" of open source, and it's a balancing act to make sure Google is giving enough back:

Google is releasing every year, not counting Android or the really large open-source projects like GWT, a new project every two or three weeks. Or patching hundreds of projects a month. I conservatively estimate we're releasing about a million lines of code a year from the company....If you talk to open-source developers--people who are working on projects--I think they understand that. It came back to who do we want to interact with.

As for the company's refusal to use the AGPL, DiBona simply says:

We'll still keep on backing up the [Free Software Foundation] and the [Software Freedom Law Center] as much as we can, but it means we won't be able to use that license inside, because it won't be practical for us to do so.


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