February 17, 2019

Google Displays Model OSS Citizenship

Searching for Open Source

  • October 26, 2005
  • By Brian Proffitt
How much is open source worth to Google?

Well, this week, at the very least, it was worth $350,000. And that, really, is just scratching the surface of what Google has and plans to contribute to the open source community.

The $350K was the amount of the grant donated by Google to a joint open source technology initiative of Oregon State University and Portland State University. The grant is fairly open-ended, as it's main purpose is to "encourage open source software and hardware development, develop academic curricula and provide computing infrastructure to open source projects worldwide," according to a press release about the grant.

Anyone not familiar with the open source work might wonder why the Mountain View, California company is donating this kind of funding to two Oregon universities? Were the founders alumnis or something? In actuality, Oregon has become the de facto center of the open source world, as Oregon State University is the current home to the Open Source Labs, which plays a key role in hosting many open source projects (and is the current home of the kernel.org servers). Beaverton, Oregon is the home of the Open Source Development Labs, where Linux creator Linus Torvalds is now a Fellow, and the Open Source Technology Center.

With so much open-source technology going on in one place, it would be more surprising if Google had donated their grant anywhere else.

According to Chris DiBona, Open Source Program Manager of Google, the grant was specifically made to the OSL because Google was impressed with their work.

"Scott [Kveton] and Bart [Massey] are doing a really great job" DiBona explained. "They were one of the first people we thought of."

Google is not the only one who's noted the OSL and the rest of the open source technology in the Beaver State. The actual press release about the grant itself is a clue: the release was made by Oregon Governor Ted Kulonoski's office. According to DiBona, Kulonoski "is very proud of all of the open source work that goes on in his state."

Handing out grants is all well and good, but Google has other ways of contributing to the open source community. DiBona cited the recent Summer of Code program, where Google fronted $2 million in a global project designed to give aspiring open source developers the funding needed to spend on their own open source projects.

Along with several partner organizations, whom DiBona praised as instrumental in getting this project accomplished, 400 students from a pool of 8,744 applicants were chosen. Each selectee received a $4,500 grant (and the partner organizations, such as Apache, nmap, and Samba, got $500 per student that worked on their projects).

Now that the Summer of Code is over, was it a complete success? DiBona affirms that it was, and that he and the Google team learned quite a bit along the way. Most importantly, he stated, that without the help of the partner organizations, this project would never have worked as well as it did. If any other company decides to implement such a program, DiBona strongly recommends they work with an existing open source organization.

For all of the funding, programs, and active code donated to the open source community on code.google.com, there have been rumblings lately that Google has not done enough for the community.

DiBona is familiar with these complaints, and indicated that they are usually made by users dissatisfied by the lack of applications like Picasa, Earth, or Desktop being available for the Linux platform. DiBona emphasized that all of Google's software are undergoing ports, so ultimately these tools will be ready for Linux, too.

Beyond the porting of their software, DiBona stated that for his part, the most important way Google would participate in open source would be the continued donation of source code. In that way, he said, Google would be able to stand as a peer and a strong citizen in the community.

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