Google's open source problem is Affero

If Google's services are under Affero, Google has to give away its "secret sauce," the code which makes it different. (Its secret source, as it were.)

Google is Evil, from Scroogled and TechRepublicÂ’s GeekEnd
The best open source protection for "the cloud," as Gordon Haff notes today, is the Affero GPL license. (Picture from our Tech Republic's GeekEnd blog, written by Jay Garmon.)

Affero closes the "ASP loophole" described by Fabrizio Capobianco here in March. It defines what SaaS delivers as software and requires code sharing.

When the FSF approved Version 3 of the Affero GPL in November, they wrote that "It requires the operator of a network server to provide the source code of the modified version running there to the users of that server."

And there hangs our tale. Google can't live with Affero. If Google's services are under Affero, Google has to give away its "secret sauce," the code which makes it different. (Its secret source, as it were.)

So Affero projects aren't allowed into Google Code. ClipperZ has had to move to Sourceforge as a result, and other projects are moving over as well.

Google's resistance to Affero, its insistence on maintaining the ASP loophole, is the "smoking gun" some in the open source community point to when questioning Google's open source bonafides. They see it as, well, evil.

So you'll see more projects like Piwik and OpenX, both of which bill themselves as "open source alternatives" to Google Analytics and Google Ad Manager, respectively.

Right now such losses are no big deal. But as Google gains in power, it's as inevitable as Newton's Third Law that this Affero controversy will grow.

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.