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GPL: The Google Public License

Until a few years ago, hardly a day went by without an article being featured on Linux Today about how “the year of Linux” had arrived. Every Linux user with a blog was willing to bet, year after year, that this was finally going to be “the year of Linux.” This was going to be the year when the public got wise, quit paying the Microsoft tax and moved over to the obviously superior Linux.

And year after year, it didn’t happen.


In 2000, when MS released Windows ME, Linux writers rubbed their hands with glee because with an operating system this bad the public would now have to embrace Linux. Instead, the public continued to buy boxes with ME, and figured it was their own stupidity when several times per day they were forced to reboot due to a blue screen. Or that it was their lack of computer savvyness that made installing the scanner just purchased from Best Buy impossible.

When Longhorn was finally released as Vista in 2007, arguably even a worse OS than ME, Linux pundits were sure this would be the death of the Windows dynasty, that computer users would now become so disgusted with Microsoft products they’d be willing to give the Penguin a try. When they did, they’d be sure to be amazed to discover they’d been missing out on a superior computing experience and that Linux was easy enough for even grandma to use.

With every new d-day virus targeting Windows, Linux writers wrote about how this would bring them to Linux now. Just as every new security flaw discovered in Internet Explorer caused them to write in unison, “this has to mean the year of Linux is now.”

So here we are in 2010, and no one is writing about the year of Linux anymore. In fact, just the opposite. Every week or so an article will appear on Linux Today bemoaning the fact that the year of Linux will never come. We will never take over the desktop. We are not worthy. Linux is just too damn geeky. Always has been. Always will be.

The funny thing is, sometime in 2011 it’ll dawn on us that 2010 was/is the year of Linux.

While it’s true “the year of Linux” is not yet happening on the desktop, it will. Right now it’s a smartphone thing, which will soon encompass the tablet and netbook. I figure by next year your neighbor, the one who always buys what the sales staff at Best Buy talks him into purchasing, will be bragging to you about his new super-duper desktop running Linux. Except he won’t call it Linux. Nor will he call it Ubuntu, Fedora, Mandriva, Debian, PCLinuxOS, Slackware, Gentoo, Knoppix, SUSE or Sabayon.

What he will call it is… Google.

It may be a version of Android. It may be some sort of Chrome cloud thing. It may be something that Google hasn’t even thought up yet. It will be developed by a company who’s motive will not be to sell support or use their distro as a springboard to a server edition. Instead, it will be developed to make Google the default search engine in as many homes as possible.

Yesterday Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt told CNBC that consumers are snapping-up Android phones at the rate of 160,000 per day. That means every seven days over a million Android devices are put in the hands of consumers. The development community is also embracing Android. According to an article posted yesterday on Bloomberg Businessweek, over half of 2,733 developers surveyed by Appcelerator “see Android as having the greatest long-term potential among operating systems.”

People fall in love with their phones. Eventually they’ll want to have the same OS on their desktop or laptop, especially if it offers some of the same cool apps and has been optimized for the desktop – something that Google is sure to recognize and accommodate.

It appears that when open source finally brings Windows down, it won’t be by way of a traditional open source software development company. Google has found a new open source business model. And they are a giant who will relish the role of being a giant killer.

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Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux.

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29 comments to GPL: The Google Public License

  • MOGH

    Android’s success could take a turn in the numbers of users, if apps continue to get deleted from Android phones by Google for reason / reasons unknown to users.

    By the numbers given by Mr. Eric Schmidt, of those consumers moving to Android phones, means many more apps are comming soon.

    The delete app option should be done by Google through user input. For example, many parents report an app available that seems to be directed to young phone users for illegal reasons. Or even just that an app available is providing access to undesirable information or content for young people.

    Other reasons too that I could list, to delete apps, could be through a consumer response network. Being available to all using Android phones everywhere.

  • JohnBailey

    Agreed. The”year of Linux” is unlikely to be recognised while it is happening. If it ever happens.. But something that is happening is a constant drift of new users to Linux. Sometimes curiosity, sometimes the limit of Microsoft tolerance has been reached. Some new anti customer policy, one virus infection too many.. Some will go back, but many will stay. And I firmly believe that this is a much more sustainable means of getting new Linux users than any pandering to the “We want free Windows, cos Linux is too hard.” crowd.

    For me, it was a combination of WGA and a broken computer. Never been happier.

  • Phil

    Too much concern over Googles delete button. Even if it comes by user input millions still won’t know why the app was deleted. And by the time a user figures out an app is malicious its to Kate because he only found out from the damage. It’s smart to be able to pull dangerous apps as soon as the danger is realized. It will only stop zealots from buying the phones.

    Posted from my Incredible.

  • MOGH

    @Phil

    While this “zealots” BS may sell in your neighborhood…fine, keep it, good reason for concern about a delete button is normal when consumers are paying for it.

    Especially if this “zealots” name calling happens to be Google’s plans for Android if customers show too much concern about it. Tell us Phil, how Google feels about customers that are showing concern ?

    You didn’t understand my idea about a “consumer response network”: Everyone would be able to stay on the same page, if they are not too lazy to press another button and read. Everyone would know whats going on before any delete takes place. Communication Phil !

    Let the rest of us in Phil, why have a delete button at all ?
    Tell us the reason / reasons for it, from your knowledge.

    Thanks.

  • FreeBooteR

    Does being concerned over your privacy being invaded and your property altered without your permission make you a zealot these days? I hope Phil is in the minority.

  • R-Wdzieczny

    @MOGH

    We could all just succumb to the Apple way of think and just let Steve Jobs tell us what we can and can’t view I’d welcome with open arms a delete button then a totalitarian.

  • R-Wdzieczny

    Oh, wait I didn’t realize this was a FOSS support site I don’t fit in here I don’t support GNU FOSS FSF or Richard Stallman because the disrespect my Freedom because I violate there definition of freedom. I use proprietary Nvidia & AMD drivers because the open-source versions are garbage in comparison I also have to WinXP machines and several Sun machines running Debian but my Machine primary machines are Linux with Kubuntu I was rejected by Freedom because of Freedom. ?

  • MOGH

    @ R-Wdzieczny

    My question was not about Freedom, it is asking Phil why have a delete button ? Don’t know what the totalitarian BS is about, but you deal with it. I just asked a question about Google’s delete button and the reason for it. It seems there is no answer, and maybe no reason for it.

  • Christine

    Ya know Wdzieczny, it is possible to be a FOSS supporter and still use and support proprietary software. You say you don’t support FOSS, but you run Debian and Kubuntu. Sounds to me like you do support FOSS, but you disagree with the open source “purists” who think that all software should be free.

    And yes, MOGH, Google’s delete button would seem to beg some interesting questions, would it not?

  • Lonnie Nunweiler

    Google can control the content on their store, and are free to pull ANY app for ANY reason.

    Once something is on MY system, it better be hands off to everybody. They are welcome to alert me and tell me what I should do, but to delete my property, whether for good or bad, is just plain wrong. Surely their heads are not so oxygen starved they cannot see that.

    Weren’t they all uptight that some Chinese people felt they had a right to view some other’s email? They got the point that “if it ain’t yours then you have no right” for that one. Just extend the concept to every other action and they will be cool.

  • Lonnie Nunweiler

    I forgot to add, that if they do not learn from the Store App fiasco and the wifi recording, then giving them control of the OS is very scary.

  • Dror Harari

    Hi Christine,

    Funny you named your article GPL – Google Public License. I was just thinking about how, if Linux is GPL (as in GNU Public License) can Google get away without complying to the GNU distribution terms. I am using the Motorola Milestone (Droid for GSM) – a valid Android distribution and it’s crippled in many ways and I saw nowhere a link to where to get and build the sources to fix the cripplage.

    It is all clear now. Google has casted GPL into Google Public License. How smart…

    /d

  • R-Wdzieczny

    @Christine

    Using Debian and Kubuntu doesn’t really mean I support FOSS.I means I support Debian and Kubuntu. Until FOSS GNU etc… Support my freedom to choose my software I can’t support restrictive freedoms. According to Foss/GNU I’m in violation of my own freedom based on freedom? What?

  • MOGH

    The control Google wants to delete apps off people’s phones, this is what I call “Google’s delete button”. If any misunderstanding I may have created.

    Freedom comes with rules so sad to say, the rules of the GPL (GNU General Public License) are clear with only one real problem. The problem being a simple double standard that first starts with the proprietary view that FOSS being “FREE”, is expected to allow use without limits or rules. While at the same time, the proprietary have no such EULA with any such “FREEDOM(S)”.

    The (GNU General Public License) folks are seen as the bad guys, when violation(s) of the rules are challenged.

    Let people get off the double standard and have mutual respect. Sick of the BS that some believe that FOSS folk are to be the suckers and play along without a word.

    If *you* don’t respect the (GNU General Public License), then don’t use the software… at all !.

  • Don

    Operating Systems are getting irrelevant as the browser becomes the new OS and with html5 the app space is dying. Anyone who needs to pull off a new operating system would use Linux as a base, be it for a gaming console or a smartphone. The point is really not to promote Linux but to kill Microsoft by targeting their lock-ins. This is why open standards and open source policies and vendor neutrality policies are so crucial. Google can trigger even more improvement in this field.

  • MOGH

    @Don

    Not trying to argue, but an OS is much more then any browser regardless of how advanced the browser may be, or could ever be.

    OSes are not in danger of being irrelevant, when the implication would be, they, starting at this point in time, would be able to take over all other functionality – capabilities OSes have beyond the web-base technologies of browsers.

    OSes and more important, kernels, in current applications as for just one example, supercomputers; I doubt browsers could advance to replace such capabilities. This mention of supercomputers may seem a big jump from PCs, but in fact it is the advancements of larger scale computer systems that find their way down to the home PC.

    If my logic is following right, then a browser that is acting as an OS, must share the functionality – capabilities of an “OS”… making it an OS after all ?

  • MOGH

    TYPO:

    correct:
    OSes are not in danger of being irrelevant, when the implication would be that browsers, they, starting at this point in time, would be able to take over all other functionality – capabilities OSes have beyond the web-base technologies of browsers.

  • Christine

    @Lonnie Nunweiler

    I think you’ve stated this pretty clear. Google’s moving apps that are considered malware (or even deadware, as in this case) might be seen as a service IF the user had an option. I cover this in today’s blog, BTW, at http://fossforce.com/2010/06/androids-nuclear-football/

  • Christine

    @Dror Harari

    I know Anroid’s source code is available online somewhere, because people are hacking it to run on PCs and Macs. But, you’re right, the URL to the source code should have been provided with the device, at least in the manual if not in the phone book or somewhere in the phone. This might be another possible violation that needs to be ironed-out.

    Except for the Nexus, this would probably not be Google’s violation, but a violation by the phone makers who manufacture and sell phones with Android installed.

  • Christine

    @MOGH @Don

    I agree with Mogh. It’s true, a browser based OS is still and OS. Plus, although I’m sure that tons of computing will continue to move to the cloud, I think there are certain things that will always remain on the individual hard drive. That’s why I don’t think the Chrome OS will take off outside the netbook arena.

  • R-Wdzieczny

    @Christine

    Perplexing how you forgot me? I suppose the violation of freedom of freedom doesn’t make sense to you either?

  • Christine

    @R-Wdzieczny

    I didn’t forget you. It’s just that your argument seems to be semantical. You support Debian and Kubuntu but you don’t support open source because there are aspects about open source you find disagreement with.

    I think there are aspects of open source that all of us find disagreement with. That doesn’t stop us from supporting the concept, and working to change it in a way more to our liking.

    Or also finding areas within open source that fits our own approach. For example, BSD is an open source license that might suit you very well.

  • R-Wdzieczny

    @Christine

    The BSD license does suite me very well. It’s unfortunate that Linux hasn’t adopted a similar license yet Linux under BSD would be peaceful co-existence for all developers. Though I support BSD I also Support Linux It’s my job & my hobby I unfortunately don’t have the time or the patients to learn BSD at this point in my life nor would I really consider a switch I love Kubuntu KDE and Debian I just hate restrictive freedoms I feel there a permanent contradiction.

  • MOGH

    @R-Wdzieczny

    From the last, of your last comment, “I just hate restrictive freedoms I feel there a permanent contradiction.”
    I would like to point out “restrictive freedoms.” is an oxymoron.

    I find it odd, the BSD requires the retainment of copyright notices. This applies to any change/changes as additions/direct-modifications to/of existing code.

    So, if my logic is following right; then the BSD has placed the restriction to retain copyright notices, as well to respect those notices of existing code. The code, with such cooperation when shared, contributors works aren’t lost. At the same time, others are able “free” to use/study the work for future developments/learning.

    MOGH.

  • Andrew McIntosh

    #
    @R-Wdzieczny

    In what way have the FOSS/GNU crowd impinged on your freedoms? Do you think being loud and pushy equates to taking away your freedoms? Are you saying that if I disagree with you, I’m impinging on your freedom?

    You _can_ run any software you want on a free system. People run proprietary software on their Debian systems all the time. The FOSS crowd does absolutely nothing to stop that, they’re merely rather vocal about it.

    By “support my freedom to choose my software” what on earth are you trying to say? That Debian should be forced to include proprietary software in their repositories? Is forcing people to work for you for no pay what you call freedom?

  • khan

    I call whatever i *want* to run on my system freedom. And Free Software (FSF) with its retarded definition of freedoms is not *open source*. There is a reason why people use open source as opposed to Stallman’s free software. In stallman’s world freedom means freedom to agree with his definition of freedom. This has already been exposed a number of times in his rants directed at linus and others. Supporting open-source does not equal supporting Free software. Hell even supporting GPL does not mean you agree with everything stallman and his fanatics come up with.

  • MOGH

    @khan

    Give the definition of freedoms as you see they should be. That any software following the definition, is software you would feel better using.

    “Hell even supporting GPL does not mean you agree with everything stallman and his fanatics come up with.”

    Who on Earth said you did ? This and your other comments sound more like paranoia in my opinion.

    You’ve taken an opportunity to go around an important point; that FOSS is by choice, no one is making you do a thing ! So make the clear thinking choice not to use FOSS.

    When you make a choice to use something, you, being responsible for understanding the terms you agree to. Like it or not, when you download GPL code, you open it and use it, you are accepting the GPL’s terms. That is the accepted way things are done in life !

    Just thinking, with all of your big talk about freedom, it is you that are trying to dictate the way things should be.

  • R-Wdzieczny

    @khan

    I agree with you. I’m done with this flame war this is my last post.

    GNU/FOSS/FSF Are to restrictive they promote freedom with then rules or definition of what freedom is which is there permanent contradiction freedom is not definitive of there rules infact there rules will impede the progress of Linux and open source in general GNU/FOSS/FSF remind me of Apple’s walled garden approach you can develop software for GNU but within our restrictive freedom. You have to open the source code even if you want to make a profit so there can be clones of your software written limited perhaps your lively hood. I in no way support GNU/FOSS/FSF I do support Linux It’s my job,hobby, and It pays the bills and I enjoy helping with projects I’m actively involved in.

    -Ryan Wdzieczny

  • I read all the article and comments.
    It’s sad to read people blaming Stallman and the FSF but at the same time using an operating system who was invented by them.

    The idea to build and develop an operating system for people, free to share, copy, modify, change, etc. was the idea behind the GNU operating system.

    It was Richard Stallman who in 1983 started to write that operating system with the help of other people.
    They even created a license called GPL so people could be legally free to share, SELL, or give away for free, change, modify their programs and os with their friends to build a community as it was so common before big software companies were born.

    Linus Torvalds wrote only a kernel and he did it “just for fun” as he will tell later in his own book. The linux kernel’s success is because it was released under the GPL license, created by Stallman with the help of some lawyers.
    That license gave linux users and developers the four freedom of free software: to run the software for every purpose, to change it, improve it and give those improvements back to the community.

    So when you blame Stallman and the FSF, and then you use “ubuntu”, please remember that you are using an operating system invented by the GNU project in 1983 with a linux kernel invented by linux in 1991 and release as free software thanks to a free software license wrote by Stallman.

    Please know the history of the operating system you are using:

    http://www.gnu.org/gnu/gnu-history.html