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perspectives on open-source and web services

Friday, July 29, 2005

more about open-source

although I usually try to stick to web services talk, that interest routinely finds me at Google, so I ended up reading this post, its "counterpost," and Bosworth's followup.

now I'm not fishing for a job in Google's PR department, but I feel like Krzysztof Kowalczyk is really giving Google an un-merited hard time. I won't say that his stance is a usual one in the open-source community, because I know it really isn't. it just irks me when open-source advocates(Kowalczyk?) go about demonizing some of the most respectable, successful, and influential users of open-source. Google should be used a shining example of how powerful open-source is technically, and as a cultural movement.

as Adam says, Krzysztof's post essentially says that Google has a parasitic relationship with the open-source community because Google uses open-source technology without contributing back to the open-source pool. aside from the fact that Google does actively contribute to the general pool of open-source software, Krzysztof's accusation holds no merit for at least two other reasons.

1. Google has provided almost incalcuable value to every programmer in the world time and time again - all free of charge. just because Google's value is not delivered quid pro quo with "open source" proper, doesn't mean Google is parasitic. because...

2. the nature of open-source itself is a contribute-AND-prosper relationship with a fuzzy and wonderfully free middle - make it work however you can because you're free to do so. I personally think it is pricesly that dynamism, that absence of strict regimen in the exchange process, that makes open-source THE poster-child of the great new open culture that's cropping up in all economic and social spheres.

Google is one of the best examples of hugely successful symbiotic open-source production: Google takes open-source software, re-structures, re-factors, re-mixes it with their own creative juices (eww) and labor, then releases their results to everyone in an amazingly usable form.

I think for the most part, open-source developers love Google, and Google loves open-source. but I'd like to ask something of the open-source fairy as well...

just contribute and prosper without inventing artificial obligations or standards people must live up to in order to receive some mystical "blessing" from open-source developers. don't try to apply the meritocracy concept (which works damn well on the technical aspects) down into the very intentions and motivations of other participants.

for God's sake, don't even suggest a quantitative price tag level (10% of savings) a company must meet to redeem themselves of their profit-seeking sins. (the counterpost suggests "Do no evil" is a "refreshing" contrast to "corporate profits")

I know I nit-pick and criticize open-source too much, and hardly ever go the other way 'round, but that's because criticism is wasted and hopeless on the proprietary crowd. they'll just keep dismissing you as a communist - even to the point where you're rolling in shit-loads of what would have been THEIR money if they had changed their failing business model.

I jump on the open-source voices harshest because I already know how amazing open-source is, and can be. I hate to see it get into petty squabbling about insignificant things like "fairness" in exchange. it's like Mr. Gates issuing a press release to bitch about a papercut he received cashing his check.


edited aug 03 to correct Krzysztof Kowalczyk as the author of the post. sorry Michael.


At 7/29/2005 4:06 PM, Blogger Matt Crouch said...

Very interesting exchange. Some points
-the author of the counterpost is Krzysztof Kowalczyk, Rhys is just the guy who pointed it out to Adam.

-Kowalczyk's assertions put to the test our "free as in speech" rhetoric. "We" really mean it when we say Run Our Software All You Want.

If you feel obliged to invest some of the money you save (10% or whatev), then you're a nice guy I guess.

But if you don't (and I don't see any hard proof that google doesn't) I remain neutral to you. I hope you have a nice day, 'cause I hope that about everybody.

So I guess I'm with you on this. "Google - we take it all, give nothing back" is hardly a neutral thing to say.

Now, aside from the code that they are indeed developing/backing, there are side-effects/side-benefits of google's mere use of open-source software.

If devs are hit with that line about Linux (or MySQL, or whatev) not being "ready for the enterprise" it's easy to point to google as counterfact.

And: google, as far as I can tell, actually cares about standards. About seeing what happens if you just wire people up together seamlessly, let them collaborate, and see what's possible from there. This is immensely valuable in a household-name-brand company.

And it's a far cry from what I perceive as the MS approach: try with all your might to make it so that no one can do anything without your software stack -- all of it.


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