Threadwatch has a summary of an ongoing tempest between Adam Bosworth, eminence gris of Google and the man who most of the world seems to expect will lead-develop “The Google OS,” and some folks at MSFT who clearly are itching for a fight. The topic: Google and Open Source. Late last month Bosworth posted a plea on his site for the Open Source community to finish the job with regard to robust databases, and the MSFT folks saw an opening: Google has taken a lot from the open source community, but what has it given back? Here are the MSFT response – this post is from Dare Obasanjo, this one is from Krzysztof Kowalczyk. Both are very entertaining reads (Dare’s is mostly a reposting of Krzysztof’s, but there are a few zingers and his has comments turned on.)
In those days of focus on corporate profits (where there any other days?), Google’s motto “Do no Evil” is refreshing. Or is it? It’s a nice soundbite, but when you think about it, it’s really a low requirement. There are very little things that deserve to be called Evil. If a senior citizen is taking a nap outside his house on a sunny day and you kick him in the groin – that’s Evil. Most other things are bad or neutral. Not doing Evil is easy. Doing Good is the hard thing.
To his credit, Adam Bosworth responds, in the comments. Keep in mind, Adam worked at Microsoft for a long time:
For Microsoft to condemm those of us who benefit from Open Source is rich. Honestly, it is like the Nazi’s condeming the Swiss from benefiting from the refugees.
As I understand it, when it comes to giving back to the Open Source community, the Microsofties may have a point, at least strictly speaking. But then again, Google took open source and, well, built Google, and it’s free for all to use. That’s not such a bad thing, is it?
It’s very interesting (and rather odd) to see MSFT employees take pole position on nobility and open source goodness. Those in the know tell me that Google has made significant and quite valuable modifications to various open source tools. Perhaps it’s time they shared some of that wealth back to the community from whence it originated.
UPDATE: Adam has posted a response on his site. Highlights:
We all benefit from those who came before us. We benefit most when the knowledge is free and generally accessible., but we benefit either way. It would seem that these cacophonous critics, yammering about giving back and sweepingly ignoring the 100’s of billions of times people use and appreciate what Google gives them for free every day from Search to Scholar to Blogger to gMail to Picasa, do not understand this basic fact.