With Page as CEO, Open Source is stronger than ever at Google

Google's management is changing, but its support for open source will only grow stronger.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

When Google announced that Eric Schmidt was stepping down as CEO and Google co-founder Larry Page was moving up to the CEO chair, you could have knocked Wall St. analysts over with a feather. They didn't see this coming. They're already debating about what it will mean.

I'm no business expert, but I do a few things and I don't see much change happening here. After all, as Eric Schmidt wrote, "As Executive Chairman, I will focus wherever I can add the greatest value: externally, on the deals, partnerships, customers and broader business relationships, government outreach and technology thought leadership that are increasingly important given Google's global reach."

Isn't that where Schmidt has always shone? I think so. And, where has Page shown? Well, of course, as the search maven. Many of you know that Google's PageRank isn't named because of the connection between Web pages and how they rank in Google; no PageRank's name comes from Larry Page. In addition though, Page, along with his friend and fellow Google co-founder, Sergey Brin, have always been ardent open-source users, developers, and, dare I say it, fans.

Think that sounds a little much? I don't think so. Sure, Google's search engine runs on Linux, both the Chrome operating system is based on Linux, and more than 250,000 open-source projects live in Google Project Hosting, but a fan?

Yes, a fan. Who came up with the idea for the Google Summer of Code, a program that sponsors students to work on open-source projects? That would have been Page and Brin.

Is that some strong business case for supporting students working on all kinds of open-source projects? I can't think of any. Is it a good thing to do to support the growth of open-source developers and projects? Oh yes. Is it something an open-source fan would do? You bet it is.

Who, after hearing about Android, the Linux-based smartphone and tablet operating system for the first time decided that Google didn't want to just support it, but buy Android and keep it open? That was Page.

When I spoke with Chris DiBona, Google's open-source program manager, a few years back when Google was big but not yet Google, DiBona told me, that Page was "passionate about open source." DiBona added, that Google also supported its engineers working on "open-source and Linux," and that "many of them use part of their time to work on open-source projects."

Since then Google's open-source record speaks for itself. Google has always supported what DiBona called "underlying technologies and concentrating on lower-level functionality programs," but now it's also shipping end-user, open-source programs like the Chrome Web browser.

Will this change with Larry Page in charge? No, if anything I expect to see even more open-source software flowing from Google. I still don't expect any real changes coming from Google when it comes to Linux and open source, but I'm certain I can look forward to Google continuing to be, by some ways of looking at it, the biggest open-source company of all.

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