Google lives and dies on open-source software. Without Linux, there would be no Google. The company both uses and makes open-source code every day of the year. In 2017 alone, Google has open-sourced Chrome for iOS; Upspin file-sharing; E2EMail, experimental end-to-end email encryption; and the Guetzli JPEG encoder. There’s only one problem. How do you find all these projects? Google finally has given us the answer: Google Open Source Projects.
In a blog post, Will Norris, a software engineer at Google’s Open Source Programs Office, wrote: “Free and open-source software has been part of our technical and organizational foundation since Google’s early beginnings. From servers running the Linux kernel to an internal culture of being able to patch any other team’s code, open source is part of everything we do. In return, we’ve released millions of lines of open-source code, run programs like Google Summer of Code and Google Code-in, and sponsor open-source projects and communities through organizations like Software Freedom Conservancy, the Apache Software Foundation, and many others.”
And now, 18 years after Google was founded, Google has launched opensource.google.com. This site “ties together all of our initiatives with information on how we use, release, and support open source”.
Why is Google doing this? To quote the site, “Google believes that open source is good for everyone. By being open and freely available, it enables and encourages collaboration and the development of technology, solving real world problems.”
Sounds good to me.
This is not a source-code site, such as GitHub. Instead, it’s a master directory to Google’s open-source projects.
For example, “We don’t know which projects will find an audience, so we help teams release code whenever possible,” continued Norris. “As a result, we have released thousands of projects under open-source licenses ranging from larger products like TensorFlow, Go, and Kubernetes to smaller projects such as Light My Piano, Neuroglancer and Periph.io. Some are fully supported while others are experimental or just for fun. With so many projects spread across 100 GitHub organizations and our self-hosted Git service, it can be difficult to see the scope and scale of our open-source footprint.”
But, it’s more. Norris explained that it’s a “look under the hood at how we ‘do’ open source”.
When Norris says that, he means it. “Today we are publishing our internal documentation for how we do open source at Google.”
This is essential reading for any company wanting to use open-source software development to its fullest potential. Or, anyone who wants to know how big companies handle open source.
Specifically, “These docs explain the process we follow for releasing new open-source projects, submitting patches to others’ projects, and how we manage the open-source code that we bring into the company and use ourselves. But in addition to the how, it outlines why we do things the way we do, such as why we only use code under certain licenses or why we require contributor license agreements for all patches we receive.”
Like I said, this is essential reading for companies and developers working with open source. Which, by the way, is pretty much everyone these days.
As Jim Zemlin, the Linux Foundation’s executive director, has said, “Open source will be the new Pareto Principle.” By that, he meant 80 percent of technology value — whether from smartphones, TVs, or IT — will be coming from open-source software development, with only 20 percent coming from proprietary programming.
He was on to something. By 2015, 78 percent of companies were running open-source software. You will be too soon. Actually, if you use Google for search, or just about anything else, you’re already using it.