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Is Google losing it?

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Google matters for open source. First and foremost, it is an example of a multi-billion dollar global company that simply would not be possible without an underpinning of free software. Open source's customisability means that its engineers have been able to fine-tune Linux and other code to meet Google's very specific needs. That, and the fact that there is no licensing fee, has allowed the company to scale its operations to unprecedented levels – rumoured to be over a million servers.

Secondly, its ethos of engineering excellence has meant that a number of the top open source coders have joined the company – people like Guido van Rossum and Jeremy Allison – and can spend some working time on their own code. This supports those projects, and provides a useful incentive for up-and-coming hackers – and shows that giving stuff away can be financially rewarding as well as ethically satisfying.

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