Open source finally blooms at Google

A trickle of open source from Google has turned into an absolute flood lately. What changed?

I wrote a few weeks back that Google has discovered developers and, as part of that, has significantly invested in open source.

For all the bile that I and others have spewed at Google over the years for its adoption of open source, with little in the way of contributions back, it's amazing to see the trickle of open source from Google turn into an absolute flood. In just the past two weeks, we've seen Google open-source the following:

  • Browser Sync, a "Firefox extension that continuously synchronizes your browser settings." Google is abandoning Browser Sync but wants to make sure it doesn't bury the dead without ensuring its code can live on as developers see fit.
  • Ratproxy, an application security testing tool.
  • Protocol Buffers, or Google's Data Interchange Format, which "allow[s] you to define simple data structures in a special definition language, then compile them to produce classes to represent those structures in the language of your choice."

I'm not sure what happened, but give full credit to Chris DiBona and others at Google who have agitated for greater open-source participation at Google. It's amazing to see how open source is finally becoming mainstream for Web companies like Facebook and Reddit , not that they're simply using open source, which they always have, but that they're actually contributing back.

It's a fantastic change of heart. It will be interesting to see how it shifts the competitive landscape of the Web.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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