Google nabs Flight of the Conchords...and developers

Google is reaching out to developers, which is good for Google and good for consumers that will benefit from an emphasis on innovation beyond Mountain View. It's a way to make the cloud more accessible, beef up what the browser can do (through its work w

Matt Asay Contributing Writer
Matt Asay is a veteran technology columnist who has written for CNET, ReadWrite, and other tech media. Asay has also held a variety of executive roles with leading mobile and big data software companies.
Matt Asay
3 min read

Google has been a massive success on the web, but there has long been one key thing missing from its strategy:


Steve Ballmer sings to them. Open source increasingly appeals to them. Google? It has seemingly ignored them.

But no more. Google has started firing up its developer outreach programs, doubling down on its bet on the cloud and the need to attract the best and the brightest to create apps on the web.

One way that this (re)newed emphasis on developers is playing out is in Google's I/O Conference. Like last year, Google will hold developer days around the world in different geographies. The biggest one will be a two-day event in San Francisco at the Moscone Convention Center on May 28/29. Google I/O is set to put Google on the map with developers. Oh, and one of my absolute favorite "bands" will be playing: Flight of the Conchords. What's not to love?

How many? Well, I talked with Google and it's expecting more than 3,000 developers at the San Francisco Google I/O event alone. Some of Google's open source luminaries, including Guido van Rossum and Chris DiBona will be among the speakers presenting at more than 80 sessions.

This is a chance to get close to Google to figure out where its (development) priorities are, and to meet the people behind Google's tools like AppEngine, Gears, etc. Perhaps most importantly, it's a chance to learn how to contribute to the gargantuan web project that is Google.

Talking with Google, it's clear that the company wants to make the cloud more accessible, beef up what the browser can do (through its work with Mozilla and elsewhere), and keep connectivity pervasive. Google sees a tipping point in the evolution of web applications where the browser must evolve and improve, in part to satisfy increasing business demands being placed on the web's infrastructure, including Google.

No one owns the web. Not even Google. I'm impressed by some of the guiding principles for Google's development:

  • Better experience for users. No more compromises for developers building applications compared to the desktop. Google is making it a priority to deliver great graphics, drag-and-drop ease of use, greater application responsiveness, and other look and feel browser improvements that make users forget they're not on the desktop.

  • Speed to build, speed to deploy. Google wants to make it easier to forget the plumbing and focus on the "last-mile" value creation faster. In true open-source fashion, many components are available now from Google and other sources: There's no need to set it all up/write it yourself. Google wants to enable developers to build above browser, hardware, and operating system issues.

  • Google is intent on providing a better computing experience through the cloud than the desktop could hope to deliver. It hopes to do this by building on the shoulders of components others have created and opened up. Very open source-esque, no? I've criticized Google for not being open-source friendly, but it's becoming clear to me that Google is simply engaging the open-source development community in different ways than traditionally expected.

No, I haven't gone all Google-y all of a sudden, but I'm encouraged by Google's developer outreach. So long as Google keeps close to developers, it won't stray from its foundational policy to "Not be evil." Google has long had serious developer credibility given its boy/girl-genius culture. Reaching beyond the firewall is a way to extend that and keep itself honest at the same time.