Google Discusses “Openness”

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Google has attempted to tackle the question of what it means to be open by asking some of its employees just that it means, for them, to be “open.” Then, Google posted the responses to its official blog.

Google might well trade very well indeed on the fact that its operating system, Chrome OS, and its browser, Chrome, are both “open source” but over the last few of months on the fact it’s come under some fairy significant fire for that claim, which some have labelled as more than a little dubious. It seems that there are some who take serious issue with the closed parts of Google’s open projects, and now Google has responded to them.

Perhaps most succinctly, the blog post over at Google says on the subject of what it means to be “open,” “It is a Rashomon-like term: highly subjective and vitally important.” The issue at Google, apparently, isn’t that there are people internally who feel the company should be less open in the manner that it does things, but that there are conflicting views of just what constitutes openness.

It’s a very long post, but an acutely interesting one. There are some statements in there that are excellent food for thought, including a paragraph that reads,

“All other things being equal, a 10 percent rise in share or a 10 percent increase in industry value should lead to the same outcome. But in our industry a 10 percent increase in industry value will yield a much bigger reward because it will stimulate economies of scale across the entire industry, increasing productivity and reducing costs for all competitors. As long as we contribute a steady stream of great products we will prosper along with the entire ecosystem. We may get a smaller piece, but it will come from a bigger pie.

In other words, Google’s future depends on the Internet staying an open system, and our advocacy of open will grow the web for everyone – including Google.”

It certainly makes for some interesting reading, and it’s not too often we see Google posting as though it were a company, rather than just receiving updates from individual members of staff to introduce a new product or service.

If you’re at all interested, the Google blog post is well worth a look, though you’ll likely need a good few minutes to have a real read through it.

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