Free and open source software has been part of our technical and organizational foundation since Google’s early beginnings. From servers running the Linux kernel to an internal culture of being able to patch any other team’s code, open source is part of everything we do. In return, we’ve released millions of lines of open source code, run programs like Google Summer of Code and Google Code-in, and sponsor open source projects and communities through organizations like Software Freedom Conservancy, the Apache Software Foundation, and many others.
Today, we’re launching opensource.google.com, a new website for Google Open Source that ties together all of our initiatives with information on how we use, release, and support open source.
This new site showcases the breadth and depth of our love for open source. It will contain the expected things: our programs, organizations we support, and a comprehensive list of open source projects we’ve released. But it also contains something unexpected: a look under the hood at how we “do” open source.
Helping you find interesting open source
One of the tenets of our philosophy towards releasing open source code is that “more is better.” We don’t know which projects will find an audience, so we help teams release code whenever possible. As a result, we have released thousands of projects under open source licenses ranging from larger products like TensorFlow, Go, and Kubernetes to smaller projects such as Light My Piano, Neuroglancer and Periph.io. Some are fully supported while others are experimental or just for fun. With so many projects spread across 100 GitHub organizations and our self-hosted Git service, it can be difficult to see the scope and scale of our open source footprint.
To provide a more complete picture, we are launching a directory of our open source projects which we will expand over time. For many of these projects we are also adding information about how they are used inside Google. In the future, we hope to add more information about project lifecycle and maturity.
How we do open source
Open source is about more than just code; it’s also about community and process. Participating in open source projects and communities as a large corporation comes with its own unique set of challenges. In 2014, we helped form the TODO Group, which provides a forum to collaborate and share best practices among companies that are deeply committed to open source. Inspired by many discussions we’ve had over the years, today we are publishing our internal documentation for how we do open source at Google.
These docs explain the process we follow for releasing new open source projects, submitting patches to others’ projects, and how we manage the open source code that we bring into the company and use ourselves. But in addition to the how, it outlines why we do things the way we do, such as why we only use code under certain licenses or why we require contributor license agreements for all patches we receive.
Our policies and procedures are informed by many years of experience and lessons we’ve learned along the way. We know that our particular approach to open source might not be right for everyone—there’s more than one way to do open source—and so these docs should not be read as a “how-to” guide. Similar to how it can be valuable to read another engineer’s source code to see how they solved a problem, we hope that others find value in seeing how we approach and think about open source at Google.
To hear a little more about the backstory of the new Google Open Source site, we invite you to listen to the latest episode from our friends at The Changelog. We hope you enjoy exploring the new site!
By Will Norris, Open Source Programs Office