Just this week Google’s V.P. of Product Management Jonathan Rosenberg published a memo declaring that Google is an open source company. An insightful article on the Silicon Alley Insider points out how all Google’s talk about opennes is really just “empty posturing”.
Google base their claim to openness on the fact that they have opened up the source code for the Android mobile operating system, Chrome Web browser and Chrome operating system and a few other products so that the larger developer community can improve on them.
Rosenberg says, “at Google we believe that open systems win. They lead to more innovation, value and freedom of choice for consumers, and a vibrant profitable and competitive ecosystem for businesses.”
While all this discussion about openness is fine, one cannot help but notice the fact that Google’s largest source of income is their search engine, which ranks web pages to create relevant search results for user queries. And nobody really knows how the algorithm for this ranking system works, apart from the few people at Google who are in charge of the algorithm.
Google’s argument against making this algorithm public is, of course, that spammers would misuse this information if it were easily available to all.
This argument seems weak, however, as it has been proved by other open source projects such as the Mozilla Foundation’s Firefox, that while an open algorithm may seem to help spammers, there would be an army of developers ready to combat the spammers.
If anything, all of Google’s talk about the importance of being open seems to be a cheap dig at Microsoft, and an attempt to make Microsoft seem like the bad guys just before Google launches a full-blown attack on Microsoft Windows by launching their own operating system.