Update:On 7 July Google announced the Google Toolbar for the Firefox browser on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. This move should be applauded. Now for Google video.For some time I have been watching Google with growing concern. When they came on the scene, I was a very early user. I thought it was cool that they used Linux and thought that perhaps they would be an open source supporter. With the release of Google Video I think there is now enough evidence to conclude they are hostile to open source.
Google’s (lack) of Open Source contributions
http://code.google.com/projects.html is a list of open source projects done by Google. 9 projects, none of which are well known to me. I personally maintain three projects and contribute to several others. My employer contributes to 150. I think Google’s project contributions are nothing more than a mild bit of PR designed to attract open source developers. But their efforts fall flat.
Google’s Use of Open Source
Google is perhaps the world’s largest user of Linux. They probably get more benefit out of open source than most companies. They use Python. They use Java. Java is not open source, but you do not need to pay for it.
Windows only here
I had a colleague who used IE when the rest of used Firefox. We asked why and he pointed out that one of his tools of trade was the Google toolbar. http://toolbar.google.com/googlebar.html. We tried an open source plugin which worked fine for me. That particular version was a frustrating install so he canned Firefox. He is still on IE.Next we have Desktop Search. Windows only. Then, we have hello, also Windows only. Next, Google Earth, Windows only Picasa, Windows only And of course, finally Video, Windows only. What really hurts about this last one is that Google are using the open source VideoLan player. (http://www.videolan.org/vlc/) I have used this player for years on my Linux and Mac machines. VLC has binaries for every operating system out there. Google is Windows only.
The death of open standards
When Netscape came out I was a Windows only user. What struck me at the time was the support they offered for other OSes. In my case this made me think that perhaps the Internet era would be one of open standards. It largely has been. I have personally embraced open standards computing. For me Netscape was the example.Google had, and maybe still as the opportunity, to continue that fine tradition. Many of the people that work at Google have personally made serious contributions to open source and open standards. However, by making a growing number of tools Windows only, Google is perpetuating proprietary standards and locking out alternative operating systems such as Linux and Mac OS X. If this continues it will become unviable to use these alternatives. Google, the world’s largest open source user, will become the largest open source killer. They will have succeeded where Microsoft failed.
Google is no longer cool, they are evil
Google has up to now been considered cool. Not anymore by me. And not anymore I suspect by a growing number of open source developers, Linux and Mac users. The founders love to go on about their ethics and their ‘Do not evil’ mantra. A bit like the Hippocratic oath of doctors: ‘Do no harm’. Well, unless they start supporting open standards they are doing evil.
What Google needs to do
- Release clients for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X for each product, or
- Work with the open source community to enable interested developers to do same
What you can do
There is a web site called Linux Appeal, where you can petition Google to support Linux for Google Video. See http://www.linuxappeal.net/petition.php?function=petition_read&petition=35