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Google: Friend or Foe of Ubuntu?

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Google enjoys a pretty favorable image within the free-software community. In some respects, it deserves this reputation, as it strongly supports many open-source projects. On the other hand, Google is reluctant to open the code of most of its own software. Given this hesitancy, can we trust the company to be always on Ubuntu’s side?

Google and freedom

Google does a lot of good for free software. It has sponsored development of wine and contributes patches to Ubuntu. Many of its employees use a modified version of Ubuntu on their company desktops. And as one of Microsoft’s chief competitors, Google is an ally of Linux by the simple logic that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

While it contributes substantially to open-source projects, however, the search giant rarely releases the source of its own software. With the exception of anomalies like Google Gadgets, which were open-sourced last summer, or the Chrome web browser, the majority of popular Google applications–from Google Earth to the Picasa photo editor to most of its web applications–are proprietary and closed.

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