Does Google play fair in Open Source?

What is Google’s Open Source end game? I analyzed last month.

What is Google’s Open Source end game? I analyzed last month.

Chris DiBona is set to fly the Google Open Source flag at the London outpost of Google's Developer Day Thursday.

BUT: Does Google play fair in Open Source?  

We do odd things to the Linux kernel to have it perform the way we want it to. With other operating systems it’s not as easy and we have to ask permission. We don’t like that, DiBona, the Google point man on Open Source offered at LinuxWorld, 2005.

Why does Google not "like that"? Hundreds of million of dollars of reasons "why."

How much would it cost in licences if Google ran on Windows? DiBona was asked in 2006:

We've never said how many machines we have, there are estimates out there but I'm not going to say if they're right or not, but you know, think of a big number, a big number, and then multiply that by $1,000 each for a copy of Windows Server. It's safe to say it would be hundreds of millions of dollars at least.

When Google Code was originally announced two years ago, Max Blumberg, a University of London PhD, noted:

It is also a wise move for Google to include the developers community as one of its market segments. The more developers that use Google as the search engine of choice in their applications, the more advertising traffic will be generated for the company. 

Google Developers Day IS all about getting others to develop in the best interest of Google: Google SketchUp, Google Maps, Google Desktop...

Google's Open Source big business game then is two-pronged: 1) Big cost savings and 2) Big revenue generation.

Gooogle clearly benefits from Open Source. But, does Open Source benefit from Google as well?

Eben Moglen, chairman of the Software Freedom Law Center, explored just that issue at the Open Source Business Conference in San Francisco last week.

"Google must share code," headlines the PC World report of Moglen's remarks:

Companies like Google that build their businesses on software such as Linux have a moral imperative to contribute back to the free software community, according to GPL author Moglen.

Moglen is hoping that "community pressure," and not software licenses, will be sufficient to drive Google's "continued contributions to GPL projects."

"They have ethical and community responsibilities to return at least those modifications that are not critical to their business and that are of general value to the community. We will see over time whether there are additional measures necessary in order to secure cooperation in the community."

Moglen said he discussed these issues during a talk he gave at Google two months ago, but he did not know whether he had changed any minds there. "I think we all know that Google has a bias toward secrecy," he said in an interview following his talk.

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