back to article Microsoft vs. Google – the open source shame

Somebody toss me a Che Guevara T-shirt. Google and Microsoft have gone to war over open source software. On Aug. 10, Redmond submitted the Microsoft Permissive License to the Open Source Initiative (OSI). Should the license be approved, Microsoft would receive the "open source" seal of approval that only the OSI – by self- …


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  1. Andy Jones

    Isn't this Microsoft?

    Ashlee Vance said: "... Or the one that controls your search queries, e-mails, instant messages, photos, documents and soon phone calls without ever discussing an open standard that will let you manipulate all that data ..."

    The problem with the above statement is that you are trying to make out that that is Google when in fact it describes Microsoft to a tee. Maybe you should read what you write?

    At the end of the day Ashlee you are very pro Microsoft so your stance of accepting what Microsoft say/do doesn't surprise me. Chris DiBona is right in what he says and Bill Hilf dodged the issue. If Microsoft want to get into Open Source then they should use an existing license. By using their own they are just trying to muddy the waters, like they do with their 'Open' document formats etc.

  2. Corrine

    A few points.

    Microsoft's almost certain plan of continuing to try and crush FOSS does not, at the end of the day, invalidate their license (though I would be surprised if Microsoft really did include a license that meets OSI standards). The last point the Google person has about copycat licensing may be valid though.

    That said, I really don't see why Google has, or should have, any obligation to give out code. You buy cart parts and it gets marked on a database that uses Linux, does Autozone have any obligation to you? No? Then why should Google have any obligation over it's open source code, when you use it's (proprietary) SaaS software.

    That is not to say that the model of distribution isn't showing its age a bit. SaaS software that actually is open source *should* make that kind of requirement. (IE, if I build my own webclient for email, or whatever other arcane task somebody in management thinks should be run as SaaS, I'd stick a license on it that required the client side to be able to get access to the source code.) In that respect, the OSI needs to get with the program and realize that some things do need licenses that would be unacceptably restrictive in say, an operating system.

    PS: While Google never released it's code as a whole for Goobuntu, Cannonical has said that Google is a major contributer of bugfixes for Ubuntu, as a result of Goobuntu development. Just saying.

    PPS: And I even made a car analogy in there. Sortof. Well, it involved cars anyway.

  3. Steve Browne

    Pots, kettles and black

    Springs to mind.

    Two scary companies having a bust up about how their license is better. Mine is more open than yours, allegedly.

  4. Gerry

    Summer of Code

    That will be Google's annual sponsorship of students and Free Software projects then. How many projects was it this year? How many last year? 2005? Next year?

    How much of the code does it get to control afterwards?

  5. Dam

    MS open source? ridiculous


    "But which company is open source's biggest threat in 2007? The one clinging to an operating system and productivity suite monopoly? Or the one that controls your search queries, e-mails, instant messages, photos, documents and soon phone calls without ever discussing an open standard that will let you manipulate all that data or let you move it to a new service provider?"

    I host my own emails, docs and photos.

    I don't use google's IM, nor their phone service.

    So I guess MS still qualifies as the biggest threat.

    All the more when they release "Microsoft GNU/Windows 3000" in 2009, with a brand new OSI logo.

    They're the ones that have constantly been taking blows at linux and OSS whenever it could, saying it's of poor quality, that the license sucks, that its users suck, blablabla...

    Yet now they want to join the family because they see the support for OSS is strong?

    Screw them.

    Should their license get approved, I should think MS will show us soon enough how to regret it.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Is this Russia?"

    No, its worse then that Jim, its America.

  7. julian

    Bigger Brother?

    Google is certainly the most effective search engine and I use it all the time (as does almost everyone I know).

    However I do avoid many of their other services as I am not overly keen on having any of my data stored on the servers of a company who thinks its mission is summed up by "do no evil" and therefore can do anything it likes. [Sounds like the early days of most every dictator on the planet.]

    I am surprised that Google is still considered so benign considering the ire that any mention of id cards, databases or any other records that the UK government wishes to keep is mentioned on The Reg.

    Finally I thought the excerpt of DiBona's posting made him seem quite childish.

    I agree with The Reg on this one.

  8. Ian Yates


    You actually echo a lot of the fears I've had about Google over the last few years.

    I started to use Google way back when they still powered Yahoo's search engine, but I became more and more uneasy with their services as they grew. (And when I felt their search results were becoming less relevant to me.)

    The fact that people blindly use them for all of their Internet life (mail, docs, search, etc) is as scary as people who use News Corp services as their only source of information... (or Wikipedia, I suppose).

    I don't believe Google are doing anything "evil", but they are not the good guys people make them out to be.

    But maybe I'm just a paranoid cynic, eh?

    Anyway, I was just glad to read I'm not the only one who feels nervous about Google's rise and power ;)

  9. Simon Greenwood

    What open source code?

    I would like to see some proof of the open source code that Google has 'absorbed' without contributing back to it. Google has licenced products and turned them into their applications, has financed a large number of projects under their 'summer of code' and indeed has an open source website at Google doesn't make everything it produces open source, and is perfectly in its rights to do so, and I think it's rather dangerous to imply that they use open source tools to make closed products without supporting the implication.

  10. Richard Kay

    But FSF have closed the software as a service hole

    "The Free Software Foundation avoided closing the SaaS hole – a problem caused by an archaic notion of distribution as being tied to a diskette or CD – with GPL v3."

    This hole has been closed with the Affero General Public License (AGPL):

    The development of this license has involved the FSF from the start, and the drafting of GPL v3 led by the FSF has specifically catered for the requirement to enable GPL and AGPL code to be combined.

    It is clearly up to copyright holders to choose which license to apply to original work, but for those providing web-services who see provision of software as a service in the same light as software distribution and want a copyleft license compatible with the GPL, the AGPL is likely to be a suitable choice.

    In practice the FSF need to maintain and make available both licenses, as most of the software released under either do not have copyright assigned to the FSF, and not everyone who owns the copyright in GPL licensed software will both want to and be contractually able to release this under the AGPL. So when writing articles concerning copyleft issues affecting software as a service, please in future mention the AGPL and please don't suggest that the FSF do not support this.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Follow the money

    Microsoft's plan is not only to split the open source world with more incompatible licences but to get money from as many open source users as possible for using code that was written with no intention of charging for it. Divide and conquer. They want our money (not just code) whether we use Windows or not.

    Google on the other hand are not dividing up the open source world nor are they attempting to charge everyone for others hard work. Sure they want to make money, they are a business. They may well be being selfish by not returning code to the open source world. But they are not interfering with people who write and use open source code. That to me is the big difference. Google just want to make use of the resources out there. Microsoft want to control and charge for it all.

    It will take more than a bit of whitewash to clean up Microsoft.

  12. Gleb

    Thank you!

    It's rarely seen in popular media, that google gets its fair bashing. Why, maybe this is a sign of things to come - people shouldn't just listen to the company's claims about how great life is at google campus and how unevil the company is. The bottom line, as it was well illustrated, is that google consumes.

    It provides a very good service, but that service creates monopolies, since nobody can afford not to use google any more. And the business model itself is a testiment to counterproductive commercialism - google gets its money from advertising - and not the vanilla kind, but the kind that's intended to mess with (specifically) YOUR brain. The trend is sickening, even outside google labs companies are using medical brainscanning technology to maximize advertising potential - if there would be a way to make you buy something, the companies wouldn't blink to use it.

    Bill Hicks, RIP, once said something to the effect of advertisers should commit suicide and stop polluting... this was in the 90s. Now the playing field has changed and the nature of subliminal is revised. Google makes a sickening amount of money by targeting your brain with AdSense online. Wherever you go.

    Apart from the obvious monopolistic characteristics that google money can buy - near infinite storage, huge internet cache, buying up a lot of talanted engineers; google's sin is rooted in vanity. I'm not saying that google is useless, far from it - it provides individuals, SMEs and even huge companies with ways of making money. But is money the only thing we need?

    I don't know. I was born in the Soviet Union, and I still remember how we had soap that said "soap" on the package. And how different superlative adjectives actually served a purpose....

    I wonder if there's a middle way - commercialism without exessive advertisment, heh.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    the whole point of the GPL (both v2 and v3) is to encourage the widest possible range of use and distribution of the code. Personally, I'm damned glad google lets me search the web for free, get email for free and the other 5million things they provide for free. Just because they dont want to release some algorithm or new technology they spent $lol money developing doesnt make them a bunch of assholes.

    They do return code to the community and they employ lots of people to work on open projects in one way or another. The benefits google brings us (free satellite imagery, anyone??) far outweigh these kinds of shenanigans - not to mention the fact that where Microsoft are actively hostile to OSS, Google simply keep their mouth shut and get on with it.

  14. Tam Lin

    Alta la Vista, baby

    Unlike Microsoft, Google has never had period of non-evil. Microsoft's reign of evil began with Ballmer, so it had a good ten years of merely mean-spirited existence. Google has been content to let its search degrade to the point where it is no better than Alta Vista was in the epoch before denied evil.

    But no matter. I'm content just to sit here and run all this fine open source software written by Google. Now where is my 0G thumb drive?

  15. Steve Button Silver badge

    How dare you!

    How dare you say such nasty things about Google. Everybody knows they are lovely and fluffy and cuddly and everything, you... you MORON.

    And Microsoft (nay, Micro$oft he he) are Evil.

    It's so black-and-white, I just don't understand how you can't see this.

    Dick head.

  16. Martyn Welch


    "the one that controls your search queries, e-mails, instant messages, photos, documents and soon phone calls without ever discussing an open standard that will let you manipulate all that data or let you move it to a new service provider"

    Search Queries: OK, no open standard, but the interface is well documented -

    Emails: Mail accessible and downloadable via POP3 -

    Contacts: Contacts can be exported to CSV (including a layout suitable for importing into outlook) -

    Instant Messaging: Talk uses the Jabber/XMPP protocol, which is based on open standards -

    Photos: Not exactly sure what you are getting at here, Picasa is a desktop app as far as I know, so the files are saved locally.

    Documents: Again, not exactly sure what you are getting at here, but Google Docs and Spreadsheats allows you to "save your files to your own computer in DOC, XLS, CSV, ODS, ODT, PDF, RTF and HTML formats" -

    Beyond that - Videos can be downloaded from Google Video, even if it iss just in a format suitable for use on iPods and PSPs.

    They also provide a fair amount of information about there APIs -

    How is that not allowing you to manipulate your data or move to a new service provider? Would you prefer them to talk about open standards more rather than actually using them where possible?

  17. calagan

    hidden agenda

    As it was commented previously, DiBona's point about deterring copycat licenses and reducing license proliferation is not only valid, but crucial.

    Moreover, as a newcomer to the Open Source Community, it only make sense that MS adopts an existing license, say GPL v3, instead of coming with its own.

    I am sure that somewhere within the intricacies of the MPL, lies a flaw that evil MS will a use to screw us up

    @Tam Lin: nonsense: MS reign of evil started with Windows 1.0

  18. Danny

    @ashley: typo

    "...Google could care less about that though..." should be "couldn't care less" - it doesn't make sense otherwise, unless Google do want to release their code?

    Google wanting to keep their own code as a trade secret is completely understandable. So long as it is in-house I don't see why there should be a problem. I guess they figure that such things like the search and ranking algorithms are part of what makes Google different from other search engines. I wouldn't be expected to release the code for my website just because I'm using a LAMP setup?

    Of course, nobody's forced to use Google, Gmail etc, unlike, say, wanting to play the latest game, which pretty much demands Windows. (Though I do have Quake III for Linux.)

    As for moving from Google webmail to Yahoo webmail (which I think is what you're suggesting) why would one want this? Sign up for both (they're free). Tell people one or the other depending on whichever has your favour that month. If it's not being tied to a single ISP that you're after get your own domain and redirect email to whomever you like.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re: Bigger Brother?

    @ Julian:

    You're forgetting that the libertarian nuts that haunt the Comment pages here all view "private sector good, government bad" as axiomatic. In other words, if a bunch of people we can vote out does something because they believe it'll be popular and get them re-elected then it's Bad, whereas when a bunch of people we have no say over do something because it'll increase revenue, profitability or EBITDA then it's Good.

    Do try and keep up, there's a good fellow.

  20. Tam Lin

    Math 1.0 for calagan [OT]

    Altair Basic (a.k.a. Microsoft Basic) was released in April in 1975. I know; in 1976, (22 BDCMA) I designed and kludged in an 8" floppy disk storage add-on for it.

    Windows 1.0 was released November 1985.

    Next time check your dates before you go flinging chairs around.

  21. Greg Nelson

    The Bottom Line

    America runs as a monetized, adversarial system. Microsoft and Google are both publicly traded companies driven to produce a profit. Anything other than profit motive is slight of hand, smoke and mirrors.

  22. Chris

    Re: Force

    Danny, nobody is forced to play the latest game, either. No, not even if it's Bioshock.

  23. Lou Gosselin

    Who wants a Google dominated web?

    I have the view that any monopoly is bad for any industry without exception. People hate MS for many good reasons. Google was smart enough to use this to their advantage by shifting the company image to be opposite of Microsoft. The love being mentioned alongside MS because it makes them look like angels in comparison.

    As others have mentioned everything Google does is in self interest, which is no crime but there are serious conflicts of interest given how much personal information Google collects.

    Many people say the Summer of Code is how Google gives back to the community. Unfortunately sponsoring a few students to work for a summer on open source projects is a drop in the bucket compared to what Google consumes in open source. Yes, it's a nice gesture, but Google does it primarily because it generates enormous positive publicity at very little cost. Obviously their strategy continues to pay off.

    So, when compared to MS, Google may "win" hands down. However this is not a logical reason for justifying a Google monopoly. Google should earn their respect in the open source world, and not just by being the anti-Microsoft.

  24. calagan

    Re: Math 1.0 for calagan [OT]

    My point is that MS' evilness has nothing to do with Ballmer. Things started to get nasty (hence evil) when Gates found out the potential of the Mac and released Windows in a hurry.

  25. Kevin Hall

    Re: The Bottom Line

    Well said Greg. If it wasn't Microsoft and Google it would just be someone else. I think you really have to take the personalities out of this, corporations like Microsoft and Google are products of a much larger phenomenon. Not least the fact they're obligated, by US law, to make money for their shareholders over and above any other responsibility. If you've ever read "The Corporation" you get a better understanding that they're amoral products of an immoral economic system. If you want to change Microsoft and Google you better start thinking about changing the capitalist system, as Noam Chomsky said "this is a business run society."

  26. Morely Dotes

    @ Tam Lin

    "Unlike Microsoft, Google has never had period of non-evil. Microsoft's reign of evil began with Ballmer"

    Where were you in the Eighties, Tam Lin? I remember MS-DOS 2.x and later, and Bill Gates was an evil arsehole back then. Nothing has changed at Microsoft except the *face* in front of the evil. Oh, and the fear that they *won't* control the entire world - that's a welcome change.

  27. Owen

    Google releases code - FUSE for Mac

    I use the FUSE file system on my Mac, written by Amit Singh.

    He is employed by Google as their Mac Engineering Manager. As he just announced on the Official Google Mac Blog, he used part of his "20 percent time" to implement the "FUSE (File System in User Space) mechanism" for OS X (it was originally developed for Linux).

    Sounds like giving to me.

  28. Jared Spurbeck

    Google has a monopoly?

    Anyone who doesn't want to use Google software doesn't have to. There are plenty of other search engines, ad servers, mail clients and home pages. There are also plenty of alternatives to their webapp suite.

    Contrast this with Microsoft, which uses proprietary formats to keep you locked into Windows and Office. And then uses forced obsolescence to make you pay money to upgrade.

    If Google has a near-monopoly, it's because they're just that good. Microsoft has a monopoly because it's hard NOT to use their products.

  29. CD Baric

    "I think Google is the bigger threat these days"

    Well fortunately your noted hostility toward Linux and open source means your comments are almost surely there to suggest the wrong answer.

    I will not even question the lunacy of your conclusion, i.e Google is a greater threat to Linux/FOSS than Microsoft, because it is SO OBVIOUSLY STUPID!

    Thanks again for nothing Ashlee.

    CD Baric

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just a couple points...

    > However I do avoid many of their other services as I am not overly keen on having any of my data stored on the servers of a company who thinks its mission is summed up by "do no evil" and therefore can do anything it likes.

    A couple points to illustrate that privacy and openness is not just a lip service at Google.

    1) It is a _requirement_ for _any_ project inside google that deals with user data to provide a way to extract that data in some open and well-known format. Think about it: you _can_ download all your mail via POP, you _can_ export all your documents to ODF, PDF, RTF or DOC, you _can_ export your calendar to (something, i forgot what exactly). Your data is _never_ held hostage to Google, and that's no coincidence - it's a design requirement.

    2) Re: privacy, for example, GMail is not allowed to learn from spam false-positives that you explicitly marked as not spam because this message is clearly private and not a single part of it is allowed to be stored anywhere except your inbox. Google does care about privacy. A lot.

    There's really no way for big that is in the business of "organising the world's information" to avoid being thinked of as "they have all this information, they MUST be doing something illegal with it". It's must something in the human nature... But so far Google impressed me with how thorough and, in a good sense, paranoid are they about their users privacy, security and, yes, freedom.

    3) Re: opensource. You'd be surprised, but there's actually not a hell of a lot of opensource code being used to run google services. Linux is a well known piece of it, and yes, Google is one of the biggest users _and_ contributors to Linux kernel. MySQL is another, and the code for modifications has recently been released. In genral, contributions back to FLOSS is encouraged, if only to ease future maintenance. But most of the code for stuff you interact with is developed in house and is either constitutes what is google's competetive advantage over others (search technology, cluster infrastructure parts) or heavily dependent on them and would be useless without them.

  31. Tim Bates

    But what's the point?

    I don't get why Microsoft would want their own OSI approved license. What's wrong with the pile of existing ones?

    Surely the only point is to put their name on something OSI has approved, so they can use it to confuse or manipulate people. What's the chances they wouldn't even release anything useful under it anyway?

  32. Jon

    Cynicism - a definition

    "The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it." George Bernard Shaw.

    An accurate observation of Microsoft's application is that they intend to abuse the OSI endorsement of their license. Nothing in their long, dark and abysmal past can lead a rational thinker to any other conclusion.

  33. Ted Treen

    Oncology or what?

    Linux a cancer? I've never heard such utter drivel in my life. It's one of the better happenings in IT in the last few decades.

    Whilst I won't definitively call Gates & Ballmer Inc a cancer - they can afford more lawyers than I - I will say that I have yet to see ANY part of the M$ business operation which isn't malignant...

    PS I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Mac afficianado - a fanboy even - yet I still appreciate Linux for its undoubted value to the IT community as a whole.

    Viva OSS!

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's get real about this

    I think we all forget that both Google and Microsoft are COMPANIES. They are not alturistic organisations that are there for the good of mankind. They exist to make their owners a lot of money by returning a profit. The Open Source Initiative is a wonderful concept but also a brilliant marketing opportunity for both. Google, of course, will be concerned that Microsoft will be able to wear the same tag that they have boasted about but, in the end, is Google much more different from Microsoft? I don't think so, and I think that anyone who does feel that this is the case is living in a blinkered life. Google has been very good at marketing itself as an organisation that is there for the good of mankind but, in reality, its need to generate profit making opportunities is one of its overriding principles - it would not be a business otherwise. There is nothing wrong with this, but please do not consider Google to be the IT equivalent of Mother Teresa - Google is there to make money and we, yes the punters, are there to put money in its pockets.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Get real

    What the hell is the problem that The Register has taken with Google in recent months?

    I read article after article bitching about Google. Um. Hello dear "writers", if half the companies out there were even close to how great Google is, the World would be a much better place.

    One completely random example: How about, how "green" they're trying to make their organisation? Even the carpets in the buildings are environmentally friendly! Not even starting to mention about the transportation they provide to the employees, etc, etc.

    Infact, if you keep posting such crappy (Read: badly written) and generally inflammatory, pointless, -whiny- articles which DESPITE how poor and factless they are, still manage to make it to the top three (why is that?), why don't you take the leap? El Reg: If Google is so bad and Evil[tm], start the revolution! Stop using AdSense.

    Or, is this all about the cash? Trying to write articles about stupid things like this on slow news days just to pull in more ad clicks for your ever spiraling hosting costs?

    Google is not a bad company. Focus your petty angst on someone deserving. This screams how junk news sites, such as yourselves, treated (and still kind of do) Microsoft "back in the day".

    Maybe it's less complicated than all this. Maybe you just couldn't get a job there.

    Now you're stuck writing crappy (Read: Badly written) articles for some crappy (Read: Starting to annoy the shit out of me with your continually stupid articles) online "news" site.


  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bamboozled by propaganda

    Comments like this "If Google has a near-monopoly, it's because they're just that good. Microsoft has a monopoly because it's hard NOT to use their products." really do highlight how clever Google's propaganda has been and how the accusations of monopoly are frequently based on perception or some arbitrary standard rather than objective reasoning. If you believe in the logic of the marketplace, then no monopoly is good; all monopolies, without a single historical exception, abuse their position. The idea that Google is some kind of benevolent monopoly is one of the most ludicrous arguments I've come across in years, there is no evidence that Google works for any other interests other than its shareholders and itself. If you're looking to monetize every aspect of the web then Google is showing the way to do it. Google doesn't aspire to anything more pretentious than making as much money as it can.

  37. Giles Guthrie

    Just that good eh?

    "If Google has a near-monopoly, it's because they're just that good. Microsoft has a monopoly because it's hard NOT to use their products."

    Erm, and why, exactly, is it "hard NOT to use [Microsoft] products"? Is it because, when they were embryonic in the market place, they were "just that good"? Can you think of a word processor in 1988 that was better than Word for DOS? Or even Word 6 & Excel 5 on Windows 3.1? Sure, you had to put up with Windows, but what was better? Even the Mac versions were up to speed. Microsoft didn't get to the top of the pile by being anticompetitive, that only happened after they got to the top of the pile.

    What we're looking at here is a gorilla colony. There's a new kid around who's gunning for alpha-male status, and so is doing anything to make himself look the best. When he gets alpha-male status, THAT's when the rot will set in. Whilst Ashlee's article was far from the best journalism I've read in the last ten minutes, it does help cause people to question whether Google is the saintly one they would have us believe.

    What's happening here is that history is about to do its famous repeating trick, and we as "general public" need to be on our toes to make sure we don't get screwed in the same way we were by Microsoft.

  38. nbjayme

    Grow up...

    Get over yourself.

    The issue is not about Google or Microsoft.

    Chris DiBona is questioning on Microsoft motives. Is the license Open Source Friendly? No.

    Read the MS-PL license.

    "(B) If you bring a patent claim against any contributor over patents that you claim are infringed by the software, your patent license from such contributor to the software ends automatically."

    Why would I become a contributor to a project where anybody can just claim anything out-from-the-sky and steal my hardwork?

    Also, better understand the terms of GPLv3 and below. GPL only requires you to give the sourcecode if you "Distribute the Software". Google is clearly not distributing software but service.

    As if, Microsoft is not in the same boat in providing SaaS. And who know how much opensource is being used behind closed doors. Is Microsoft not a partner of Yahoo? as well as, Hotmail?

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    real choice and real threat ....

    Anybody have a choice to not use or use Google's service. Google did not force your choice on their users.

    What choice do you have in MS:

    1) Do you have a choice of an Intel OS before?

    2) Were people given good judgment when MSOffice comes bundled in the OS?

    3) Were people given good judgment when IE comes bundled in the OS?

    4) Were people given good judgment when MS announce they don't want Vista

    virtualized on top of their competitor OS?


    Therefore, the real threat to the health of IT ecology is Microsoft. How much more with their plans to become more visible in providing SaaS?

  40. Greg

    Google may be the bigger threat, but their lead is fragile

    excellent article Ashlee.

    5-10 years ago, when Microsoft rose to prominence, the name of the game to "winning" in the software business was erecting high and strong barriers to entry. Microsoft mastered this.

    Today, at least 3 forces have eroded the ability for any software company to successfully erect and defend barriers to entry. These are hardware commoditization, open source and ubiquitous broadband access. Put together, these enable anone to quickly and cheaply become a SaaS provider. These forces have enabled Google to become the powerhouse that they are. But they also allow ANY company to become an equal powerhouse. Nothing prevents me or any other Google user from dropping them for another provider, and as soon as I find a service that offers me more goodness, I will. Just like eBay did.

    Google knows that the only true competitive advantage they have in today's hyper-competitive software/IT market is their people, which is why they treat them like kings. It won't take long for other companies to figure this out, and once they do, Google's lead will go away.

    Greg Wallace

    NetDirector Project Lead

  41. Peter Gordon

    What has a CD or disk got to do with it?

    "a problem caused by an archaic notion of distribution as being tied to a diskette or CD"

    If I was to make my own branch of a GPL webserver called "Super Banana" and hosted a website on Super Banana, people could retrieve webpages from my Super Banana server. However, I havent given the binaries of Super Banana to anyone, be it by disk or CD, *or even over the internet*, so would I have to make the changes public?

  42. Sabahattin Gucukoglu


    I do think M$'s response was typically petty. It's almost like they have specialised automatons programmed to react with entangling and confusing statements that don't make any clear sense when confronted by any kind of potential political company retribution from others who have traditionally had clearer and more outspoken PR appearances. It's the same with any M$ function - take issue with something, they at once try to prove how wrong you are, even when it's bloody clear they are. It's everywhere M$ puts its nose in, including standards processes. I daresay M$'s OSI-approved license will do exactly the same. The very fact that Bill responded by pointing out how the OSI is more about certification and less about the spirit of the embodying licenses and open source development advocation is proof of that.

    In case you were wondering, I do believe M$ is the bigger threat - this move sounds much like the divide-and-conquer trickery of old and less about a new M$. M$ want you to think they're improving, but watch out for the image to be shattered by an impending lawsuit or three ... That company is the spawning ground of marketting and lawyers. It only really remains to discover exactly how M$ employees are trained to think as they do: "It's never, ever, ever our fault." Having said all that, I'm not against forgiving and forgetting if they would just show us how sincere they are about OSS, open standards, and all that. If they would just make us feel sure they won't employ their crack team of lawyers to tear us all limb from limb. If they would use their dominance to open competition, not to keep it securely fastened to their breasts. They haven't yet, of course, though every now and then (while we're being told to ignore the size of the company and the conflicting statements made by its management) we get to see M$ do something genuinely nice. Nice for business, of course, but nice for everyone else too (mostly stuff from research and tools given away to particular kinds of users). It isn't often that M$ does something nice without some sinister, profit-making motive. Google has more visible signs of being nice, but as others mention it's most often than not a tip in the jar and investor bate for most purposes with not a single let-up on a company advantage. Google want your code, do you hear? They want your faster kernels, your more secure libraries, your feature-packed graphics renderers ... Until then, though, M$ are undoubtedly the bigger threat; Google is something you can really get away from if you want, while M$'s formats and OSs aren't. Of course, Google give back to the OSS community, but abusing the quantities they do makes it hard to justify their bitching any more than Microsoft. Doesn't mean I'm not in line for the popcorn though ...

    Meanwhile, I think Google is every bit as likely to go down the path of sin, and advise everyone here to keep away from the individualising services they offer. Use Scroogle. Find or set up another email account whose service policy is actually acceptable. Open standards can never be excused for by cookies that expire in the next century and huge gobs of unneeded data being kept around for no good reason. You know it makes sense. Google *does not* need to know more about you. They certainly don't need to capitalise on your every click.



  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    M$ is pure evil

    M$ never had any good product. They got there by dirty, illegal activities. Why people "have to use" M$ products, because everyone else does, and often you have no other option.

    Let's see, majority of games are played in a Windows environment, you don't like it, then there is nothing out there for you. You want other people to read your document, save it as M$ compatible format or else. The list goes on, but there is nothing good about M$ ever, it just got there and now you will have to follow regardless you like it or not.

    Can we say the same about Google? Hell no. I can perfectly search without google, I don't need Gmail (I do have an account there, since it is free anyway), or other google services. Google got where it stands today, because it is that good. But, it is still just one company you can live without. M$ for majority of today's users, is the kind of thing you absolutely hate, but you cannot live without.

  44. Andrew

    Re: "Super Banana" webserver (and the joy of Word 1.0)

    A better analogy is if you then deployed your GPL software based "Super Banana" webserver to 10,000 servers in 20 seperate locations worldwide, offering a variety of commercial and free services, hosted on "Super Banana".

    That is at the very least stretching the meaning, if not the word of the GPL.

    As for the rise of Word and Excel, The original versions were crap compared to Wordperfect and Lotus 123. They gained market share by MS basically giving them away with large orders of DOS and later by MS continually fiddling with the Windows API's, thus causing the early Windows versions of Wordperfect and Lotus 123 to be almost unworkable.

  45. Snert Lee

    Embrace and Extend

    Microsoft loves open standards. They love open standards so much, that any time they see one that might be useful (whether in a technological or marketing sense), they rapidly adopt the standard. And then, because they love it sooo much, they improve the standard with magical Windows pixie dust.

    I'm sure once Microsoft has gained this level of open source acceptance, they'll announce an even more open than open software license (You'll

    be able to do anything to want to the code as long as you are very careful to never let anyone find out.) and be completely cross platform compatible (Meaning it can run on any version of Windows currently supported by Microsoft.).

  46. Tom Thomson

    @ Morely Dotes and other ignorant M$ bashers

    " where were you in the 80s?"

    We should be asking the same of you - evidently you aren't aware that Steve Balmer joined Microsoft a bit before midsummer 1980.

    Here's a question for you: where would Apple be today if Bill Gates and crew hadn't produced AppleSoft Basic (and let Apple have it at $0.02 per copy)? Do you think they could have sold over a million machines with Wozniak's Integer Basic instead? And then how much effect did Microsoft hardware for Apple (Softcards for Apple II which enable the Apple II to run CPM-based apps and also support MS Fortran and Cobol on Apple II) have?

    And for the idiot who said MS never produced any cross-platform software: how many different manufacturers' computers did Microsoft port MS Basic to (and how many different non-microsoft OSs did it run on)?

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    a bait always come in nice packages

  48. Matthew Gaylard


    I think that the way that Google functions - and yes, from the perspective of the user they are admirable in the extent to which they implement open data formats and provides access to information about interfaces (and practical) - is in part a reflection of the impact of the Open source *business* model and *ethics* in the market place.

    This is a good thing, no?

    Certainly, we need corporations to be greener, more worker friendly etc. And it seems possible to me that these things could provide competetive advantage.

  49. Rick Moen

    Off the reservation, again, Ashlee?

    Ashlee, do try not to be a sensationalist blowhard, for just a moment.

    1. di Bona didn't at any point not considering Microsoft's licence submission on its independent merits, same as any other. He merely used the occasion of that submission to ask several pointed questions -- which the assembled Microsoft coterie of course immediately ducked.

    2. Your suggestion that Chris di Bona somehow embodies Google in some fashion reminiscent of the Voice of Sauron is simply wacked. Chris has been representing open source on the basis of his own views and reputation since you were in knee britches. Anyway, there was no reason whatsoever to assume he was voicing the institutional view of Google, Inc., and it's really rather insulting to think that such is automatically the case. He's an OSI Board member, for ghu's sake.

    Rick Moen

  50. Neil Young

    A few pointers...


    Read the MS-PL license.

    "(B) If you bring a patent claim against any contributor over patents that you claim are infringed by the software, your patent license from such contributor to the software ends automatically."

    Doesn't the GPL have the same kind of philiosophy behind it, in fact doesn't GPLv3 state that outright?

    And the anonymous comment...

    What choice do you have in MS:

    1) Do you have a choice of an Intel OS before?

    Ummm... Linux? Mac OSX? OpenBSD? FreeBSD? NetBSD?

    2) Were people given good judgment when MSOffice comes bundled in the OS?

    Err.. MS Office is not and AFAIK never has been bundled in with the OS. Wordpad has, but not MS Office... and what is Open Office? Star Office? Ability Office? (and that's only on Windows)

    3) Were people given good judgment when IE comes bundled in the OS?

    Which they can then use to download Firefox, Opera or Safari?

    4) Were people given good judgment when MS announce they don't want Vista

    virtualized on top of their competitor OS?

    Where do you get that information? And I've already seen Vista virtualised on a competitor OS (MacOSX using Parallels) Why would Microsoft care anyway? Whether it's used directly on a PC or virtualised, it's still a sale of Windows Vista.

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