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October 24, 2006

Google and Open Source

Chicagoist has a small interview with three Google engineers that work in Chicago (although they weren't supposed to do that). An interesting part of the interview is about open source:

"Ben Collins-Sussman: I think of open source as software that's in the public domain. There may be a copyright assigned, but it's so liberal that effectively anyone can do what they want with [the software]. It's software that's essentially worked on by volunteers collaborating over the Internet. (...)

Jon Trowbridge
: Google uses a huge amount of open source software internally on their own systems. Most people have heard of Linux by now, but most don't realize that they use Linux every day because all of Google runs on Linux. When you do a search on Google, that's hitting Linux. Because Google's a huge consumer of open source, they have a natural interest in it right there. They benefit from it tremendously and want to make sure that open source stays healthy and continues to improve. There's also a feeling of wanting to give back.

Brian Fitzpatrick: Open source also creates a level playing field. On the level playing field, you're forced to compete and cooperate based on your merits as opposed to locking people in. (...)

Ben Collins-Sussman
: There are certain things like the PageRank algorithm, which they'll never release. And there are some things like anti-spam and anti-fraud where there's a benefit to keeping it secret. It's more effective if spammers and people committing fraud can't see what we're doing. Things like that will always be secret. There's no rule of thumb, but only the most hardcore open source zealot would have a problem with that. A lot of the stuff that we're working on could be released as open source software. That's what we're working on. Getting more and more of our code out so others can benefit from it."

Google would never open source their search engine because no one would have the resources to actually run the search engine (except for the competition). But we can expect to see more and more little tools released at Google Code.

{ Thank you, James Koh. }


  1. Just to point out that the reason you say that google does not "open source" their search engine is very naive. If that was the reason, why not to publish the complete technique used there on scientific publications? Even though they are more of a marketing company now, their search engine is the core of their business, you should never give away this kind of information, not only because of the competition but also for people not to abuse it.

  2. Why weren't they supposed to work in Chicago ?



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