Google Doesn’t Practice What They Preach For Open Source

By December 24, 20094 Comments

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.


  • Russell says:

    Well, it is certain that Google is executing monopoly business and there are a lot of business attitudes similar to microsoft,there
    should be more options available so that we can avoid the feeling of being confined.

  • ned flanders says:

    This is really a lazy and badly supported argument, so its perfect for link whoring.

    “Google base their claim to openness on the fact that they have opened up the source code for the Android mobile operating system, ”

    uh, no…. they dont base it on that. that is a recent development which no one takes into account.
    I think the Summer of Code is a much better known occurence.

    You see to be chasing 4 tails at the same time, are too lazy or uninterested to do 5mins of work.

    Google is an open source company. Woop dee doo! Everyone is. Even Microsoft. Open is the new black. Microsoft even has TWO open source licenses so the meaning is totally watered down.
    Many developers say that Google isnt open source when they really mean they arent free/libre software friendly and dont support the most popular open source license: the GPL (and all its variants) and its share with others mentality.
    Google is not the GPL/free software’s friend but they are an excellent open source (and all its varied licenses) company and contribute upstream. They pay many top kernel guys like Andrew Morton to work just on the Linux kernel (which is GPLv2) and so on. I could name a dozen things that prove taht Google is a good open source contributor but I think its a waste since that would go in one ear….

    We get the same story from developers when it comes to Canonical/Ubuntu and its poor participation in the kernel. It doesnt make them a bad free software company, its just taht some people (always) want more.

    I dont think Google is a great free software/GPL company but in the (much) broader and distilled definition of open source, they are among the best.

    Of course, I think whoever hired the chimpanzees who wrote this post shouldve known better but maybe they too thought that the Google algorithm-Firefox analogy actually made some sense.

    Good thing marketing doesnt need any facts.

  • will craig says:

    to say that google Doesn’t Practice What They Preach, its a total joke comment

    you talk about googles algo regarding search, a key element in there business, that keeps the business where it is, keeping this shut off from open sourse is the reason why your article was picked up in the first place.

    If developers got at it, i would be reading articles about porn and corporate mince

    the fact they are offering a free mobile software platfrom that 90% of phone manufacturers are taking up tells the real story

  • stuart says:

    For me google has the complete monopoly online for local search – local companies like no one advertises with them