Google's Open Source Chief Talks Shop in Interview

by Ostatic Staff - Jul. 12, 2011

In the grand scheme of things, although not everyone would call it "an open source company," Google contributes more open source code to the world than almost any other company. This is one of several points that the company's open source program manager, Chris DiBona, makes in an interview with As one of the key people who oversees how Android, Chrome and other projects advance and are released in new versions, his perspectives on these projects and Google's overall stance toward open source are notable. Here are some of his choice comments from the interview, including how prevalent Linux usage is at Google.

DiBona notes that Google defaults to the Apache license with its open source releases, and explains why:

"We really like it, it has a couple of things which make it very modern. Obviously you are getting a copyright grant, you are free to use and modify the software - like with all open source licenses. But it also says for any patents that we have in relation to that software we are giving you a license free of charge, and your users can too. The only exception is, if you sue us - well you don't have that grant anymore. If you don't - it's yours, you don't have to worry about us sneaking up on you later."

If anything, the world of open source licenses has gotten much more complex in the last couple of years, but DiBona's points about the Apache license are good, and it remains one of the most popular open source licensing choices.

Did you ever wonder whether Google runs a lot of Windows systems internally? DiBona makes clear that the answer is definitely no, and he points to a surprisingly high level of Linux usage at Google:

"We have Linux, a very very small amount of Windows, and a fair number of OS X machines. If you'd look at laptops it's maybe 70 percent Mac OS X and most of the rest is Linux, we are a huge customer of Apple. Engineering Desktops are overwhelmingly running on Linux. We have our own Ubuntu derivative called 'Goobuntu' internally for that, integrating with our network - we run all our the home directories from a file server - and with some extra tools already built-in for developers."

The interview is loaded with other good points from DiBona, including his concession that it is possible that Chrome OS is ahead of its time. Check his comments out here.