Google at OSCON: Open Source Promotes Competition

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 07-26-2006
PORTLAND, Ore.—Google believes that open source is one of the strongest ways to preserve industry competition, and its goal is to help this industry remain healthy and keep injecting fresh blood into it, said Chris DiBona, Google's open source program manager, in a presentation at the annual O'Reilly Open Source Conference here July 26.

"The world is more interesting with open-source software, and Google derives a lot of benefit from this, which is why we believe it is so important to support it and ensure its continued good health," he said.

Click here to read more about what DiBona said at Oscon 2005.

But there are a number of things that companies need to do if they want to support open source, "and you have to do them right, before you can do anything else. One of the biggest things is to be compliant, and if I screw this up, Google looks bad," DiBona said.

While Google does not ship much in the way of software, it has taken a programmatic approach to compliance with software licensing and hopes others will follow suit, he said.

In a presentation that extensively used Google Earth to show the locations and images of the places and companies he was talking about, as well as pop-ups to keep his presentation on track and remind him what he wanted to talk about, DiBona confirmed that Google had joined the ODF (Open Document Format) Alliance.

Giving some background to that move, DiBona said the company had asked the SFLC (Software Freedom Law Center) to look at ODF, where it came from, and give it a clean bill of health for open-source usage.

That investigation took about a month, and once the center gave the ODF its approval, Google joined the ODF Alliance, he said.

Eben Moglen, the chairman of the SFLC, concluded in an opinion letter released earlier in July, that "on the factual basis described, and subject to reservations, it is our opinion that ODF, as standardized and licensed by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information (OASIS), is free of legal encumbrances that would prevent its use in free and open source software, as distributed under licenses authored by Apache and the FSF."

Google also invested a lot of time, money, resources and effort into the Firefox browser, DiBona said, but he declined to give any more specifics.

To read more about why eWEEK Labs thinks the Firefox 2.0 beta 1 is no slam-dunk, click here.

Turning to the annual Google Summer of Code 2006, which sponsors student open-source project development during the summer, DiBona said this has attracted 6,338 applications from 3,044 applicants worldwide, with 630 students from 456 schools in 90 countries accepted.

"The total outlay for the project is some $3 million," he said.

Some 48 percent of those projects had chosen the GNU GPL (General Public License), with 13.7 percent selecting the new BSD license and 12,7 percent the LGPL, DiBona said before giving a strong endorsement of the merits of the GPL and explaining why the discussion process around the next version of that license is important.

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