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Could Google be stymied by a lack of openness?Matthew Aslett, July 17, 2008 @ 12:10 pm ET
It seems almost churlish to wonder whether Google could be even more successful than it already is with a different strategy, but the company’s approach to open source and open development has come into focus in recent weeks.
On last week’s podcast we discussed whether the company should see the AGPL as more of an opportunity than a threat following Jay’s post about the company releasing more code under open source licenses.
Nik Cubrilovic over at TechCrunch, meanwhile, has written an interesting article about Google’s acquisition strategy and whether its apparent insistence that acquired companies migrate to its technology platform (C++, Java and Python/MapReduce/Big Table/Google FS) causes the acquired projects to stagnate.
“One of the first main challenges for a company that has been acquired by Google is adopting the proprietary technology stack used within the company. Google does use Linux and open source, but their core technologies are all internal to the company,” states Nik.
“Because of the difference in technology, it can take a company anywhere from a year to three or more years to move over to the Google infrastructure and architecture,” he adds while detailing how the likes of JotSpot, Blogger, Dodgeball, GrandCentral and MeasureMap have lost ground during the move.
As he notes this issue isn’t unique to Google (it’s one of many problems associated Microsoft’s pursuit of Yahoo) but the widespread use of .NET and the Win32 API make it less of a problem for Microsoft in most cases. Meanwhile a significant number of the companies Google is targeting will be based on the likes of MySQL, Apache, Python, and PHP.
In concluding his article, Nik states: “The solutions for Google are either to adopt a more open stack in parallel to what they currently use, or to open source their internal technologies (as Facebook and Yahoo! are doing) in the hope that they will spread and gain adoption from more developers.”
However, Google has been open with the concepts behind technologies such as MapReduce and Big Table, if not the code, and the release of App Engine should help create a new generation of projects that are much easier to integrate into Google’s portfolio. It could be that the problem is a matter of the platform’s maturity and ubiquity, rather than its openness.
Then again, the company’s attitude towards openness related to the development of Android has also come in for some stick this week. Could it be that the company is about to find out that there is no such thing as being half-open?
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