Short thought: I’ve posted some things that are fairly harsh on Canonical, here and in other places, over time. There’s one thing I’d like to make clear. I think Canonical is a far, far better player and contributor to the F/OSS community than most other companies. Sometimes people have suggested that I (and others) are being overly harsh on Canonical compared to companies that are way worse, and to a degree that’s a reasonable criticism. So here’s a bit of balance. The reason I don’t complain much about Microsoft or Apple or Google is that I pretty much consider them lost causes. They exist to make a buck, and they have cultures that are more or less fundamentally at odds with proper collaborative F/OSS development. Even with Google, Android is pretty much a manual on how not to run a proper F/OSS project, and their ultimate goal appears to be to own every piece of information about everyone in the world, which frankly creeps me the hell out. I don’t expect anything more than minimal legal compliance with open source licenses from Google and Apple and Microsoft, and most other software companies. Whenever we see anything else I get pleasantly surprised. I get passionate about Canonical precisely *because* they’re not as bad as those companies – they’re definitely not a lost cause, they do a lot of good stuff, and they have a great opportunity to do even more really good and constructive work. Mostly I see Canonical as being on the Side Of Justice and my bitching is hoping they can do a better job at stuff, not hating on them because they’re on the Side Of Evil. I try not to spend too much time worrying about the companies that just don’t get it, because it’s not going to get anyone anywhere.

So, yeah, despite my carping, I think Canonical is trying to do the right thing, whether they get it wrong sometimes or not, and there’s a lot of good people there doing good work. I moan out of love, honest. =)

13 Responses

  1. Rahul Sundaram
    Rahul Sundaram August 3, 2010 at 10:11 pm | | Reply

    “I moan out of love, honest. =)”

    I am reading that but I am reading it right? 🙂

  2. nokia
    nokia August 3, 2010 at 11:12 pm | | Reply

    That’s what I call a “Moanonical” statement 🙂

  3. Graeme
    Graeme August 4, 2010 at 3:12 am | | Reply

    Not under any pressure from your employer (who we know, from Greg DeKoenigsberg’s post, has a policy on this), by any change, are you?

    You are also being unfair to Apple and Google: both have gone beyond the legal minimum, not least by open sourcing code they were not obliged to (internally developed, or based on BSD licensed code). Parts of Chromium, V8, GWT,
    unladen Swallow, WebM, parts of Webkit, Bonjour, Darwin, and a lot more.

  4. Jef Spaleta
    Jef Spaleta August 4, 2010 at 12:08 pm | | Reply


    Web services are a problem for everyone. I don’t care who the provider of the service is you give up an immense amount of control over your data by relying on them. Very few people care about that. Google is just more effective being a web service provider than others. If Canonical had the manpower to centralize as web services and had a revenue model to support that work..they’d be doing exactly what Google is doing. Which is exactly what companies like Facebook are doing (Facebook is a big open source users and does offer an open version of its framework … well beyond what is strictly required) but its a privacy nightmare.

    Privacy is a problem for every single web service out there. It doesn’t really matter if one service provider has all the bits.. there are b2b entities out there who are contracting with individual web service providers and aggregating that data into user behaviour pattern intelligence products. Google is just big enough to do that all in-house. But to think that other businesses are not also doing it…aren’t sharing your personal data with partner entities that you didn’t explicitly sign up for..then you haven’t been reading the terms of service close enough. AGPL licensing doesn’t fix the privacy problem or the user data aggregation problem. Only public policy is going to do that. We are so far down the rabbit hole in terms on data privacy (think credit card companies and online retailers) that I’m not sure we can really dig ourselves out even if we carve up Google into tiny little pieces and throw them in the fire. If anything Google gives us an obvious target to be concerned about instead of just the general rising temperature of privacy issues across the whole space.

    All of that is to say.. webservices are _teh suck_ when it comes to have a clear bright line as to what is right and wrong. There’s so little required transparency about how your data is used by anyone that its just plain wrong to single out Google as a bad actor in either privacy or code development.

    And that isn’t an excuse for Google. Google does get their fair amount of crap from the kernel developers for Android…as is appropriate. Other projects should probably poke Google in the eye too, if they know that Google is making heavy modifications to their codebases without contributing to the baseline project codebase. Difficult to know that for things like BSD and Apache code though as Google doesn’t have re-distribute any of it as part of the license requirements so we don’t even know how much modification they are doing to their backend code. We know about Android because they have distribute Android and the GPL clauses for the kernel latch on that distribution.

    FOSS guidance didn’t really anticipate the need for codebases to be accessible across the network boundary. Things like the AGPL have come way too late. They represent a second round of disruption to the market which will push the traditional opensource infrastructure out(or not). A lot of what we have right now as web services is built on that traditional opensource codebase and AGPL is going to have to prove its merit at delivering more value than say BSD or Apache.

    I will say that AGPL together with required copyright assigned to a single corporate entity is probably going to fail as a model to leverage contribution compared to something like Apache which allows multiple entities to collaborate on an equal basis to a core set of functionality. AGPL will really only take off once AGPL codebases are developed in a vendor neutral way and one vendor doesn’t try to retain a commercial advantage by requiring copyright assignment which allows them (and only them) the option to re-license the code for their own products.


  5. Jef Spaleta
    Jef Spaleta August 4, 2010 at 1:01 pm | | Reply

    Mozilla as a web services company is doing it right but somehow Google isn’t? By what measure? Firefox uses Google’s SafeBrowsing service by default…so you are cutting that argument pretty thin. Company A is a bad citizen and wants to control all your data. Company B is a good citizen but is using services from Company A. Logic fault..core dump.

    You can’t get away from the Google overmind that easily.


  6. Rahul Sundaram
    Rahul Sundaram August 4, 2010 at 7:47 pm | | Reply

    “Not under any pressure from your employer (who we know, from Greg DeKoenigsberg’s post, has a policy on this)”

    Actually, I am unaware of any such organizational policy that would prevent one from talking about any other organization is less that glorifying terms. It is probably Greg Dek’s personal policy and convictions.

  7. Misc
    Misc August 5, 2010 at 2:11 pm | | Reply

    Well, Mozilla as a company is mainly financed by Google, afaik ( ) . So saying that mozilla is doing right webservices when 85% of their money comes from someone that do not do them right is kinda weird.

  8. Ranking Google «
    Ranking Google « August 5, 2010 at 5:31 pm |

    […] his clarification post, this bit caught my attention: The reason I don’t complain much about Microsoft or Apple […]

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