Can Google build open source communities

Can Google build open source communities

Summary: Is Google really good at being part of an open source community?

TOPICS: Open Source, Google

While the Googlers want to talk today about improvements to GMail for mobile, there remains a serious concern for you to discuss this weekend.

Is Google really good at being part of an open source community?

There are three types of mobile source projects:

  1. One-company projects.
  2. Multiple-company projects.
  3. Community projects, which may or may not have a commercial arm.

Google has proven it has great open source developers. An open source project that is headed by Google will get the resources it needs to move forward, assuming Google feels that is in its interests.

But to succeed Android can't be that type of project. It has to run with a number of companies providing input and sharing the management.

That does not seem to be happening. It seems to be entirely a Google shop.

At Google and Blog Michael Martin is now asking openly how well that is working. He quotes a newsgroup post from an Android Engineer calling Google itself a "bottleneck," asking for help. The post drew some good responses.

A company that dominates its project has a tough time getting code contributions, even if its licensing and terms are well down the open source incline or the open source development incline. That may be unfair, but life is unfair.

What IBM manages to do best, in its open source relations, is to manage its contributions and communities so multiple players all feel they are participating. A lot of this is done by pushing open source into a separate development effort, Eclipse.

So would Google be less of a bottleneck if it spun out projects like Android into separate organizations? Or is Android so important to Google that it needs to acknowledge the need to do most of the work itself, and just git ur done?

Something to think about over the Easter weekend. Sometimes the best way to get big fast is to stay small. If you have worked alongside Googlers in an open source project please feel especially free to chime in here.

Topics: Open Source, Google

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  • More contributions, as more devices are delivered

    As more companies start delivering Android devices to the market, there is likely to be a significant increase in contributions to Android outside of Google. These contributions would be changes that companies made, in the process of building their device, that they do not wish to maintain themselves indefinitely. Some exceptions may be changes they made that differentiate or give them a competitive advantage over other Android devices.

    Lenovo's OPhone is a good example of how vendors are leveraging Android's open source nature, to create their own user experience. There is a recent video of the OPhone here:
    • I agree....give it time.

      I think they are trying to get as solid as they can before going full bore. That OPhone is real example of whats going to come down the pipe. Honestly though I'm not so sure companies will contribute to the core as much as they will take and run with their own mods. Now of course someone will say thats not the FOSS way but be realistic. This project is really only useful to companies that can put out hardware. From the jump its not as helpful to the little guy as other projects are.
      • I don't believe the Android is FOSS

        Google follows the Apache license, which is a
        variant (in my view) of the BSD strain, not the

        In this way it is able to capitalize on what it
        contributes, because its contributions are
        outsized to the total community effort.
  • RE: Can Google build open source communities

    What didn't it open source its own cloud like MapReduce or GFS? Its core profit won't be threathened by open source. That's why it tries to push it. There is nothing moral, but just business.
    Yahoo should develop and facilite its Hadoop community and hit where Google hurts!
  • True .. open source communities grow

    *Noone* builds open source communities, *everyone*, including Google, can provide the right conditions to allow such a community to incubate and grow over time. Several factors are involved, time is one of them. While Google has stumbled a bit whilst trying to provide this ecosphere, it has certainly not done a bad job in my opinion.

    • Thanks for that...

      I was asking the question, not trying to insist
      on my own view in this matter.

      My main suggestion was to look more closely at
      how Eclipse runs and try to model that behavior
      in the Android project.