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Google to pull the plug on Google Code

By Viorel Tabara in the group Open Source Software January 1, 2016 - 4:29pm Comments (4)

As announced on Jan-26,2016 GoogleCode will close. While Google provides migration tools the comments on the blog page reveal issues that a simple migration to Github or Bitbucket won't be able to solve. And frankly it's not about who's right. It reminds us, again, that relying on one company and one system is a bad practice. The code behind Github isn't open source either. Nor is Bitbucket. If Github shuts down migrating all the content to Bitbucket will pose similar issues (f.e. issue tracker). Lock-in isn't good and history has proved it. It's probably one of the reasons why organizations like Fedora, GNU, OpenStack have chosen to host their own repositories using open source tools rather than buying into external closed source hosting.


  • Jon Dron January 2, 2016 - 1:45pm

    You are absolutely right - lock-in is a plague affecting too many cloud-based systems on which we have come to rely. It's not just about risks of services shutting down - too often, changes in the service (terms and conditions or software) can be just as devastating. Google has done this too often now, as have many others from Microsoft to Twitter. It's a worrying trend. I think the only time it really makes any sense to rely on a cloud service is for standards-based infrastructure that could easily be replaced by an alternative with no loss of functionality or data - for instance a virtual machine, container, content delivery network, file store or spam filter. Otherwise, the risks are just too high.

    Having said that, I think there is a middle way, by providing an open core with (optional and replaceable) component services that may or may not be free and may even be closed. For instance Wordpress, that powers over a quarter of all sites on the web, and that almost certainly puts Facebook in the shade in terms of social software penetration and use, is entirely open source. There's a gigantic ecosystem of both open and closed plugins and themes, and there's a large, lucrative industry that has developed around it, very little of which contributes directly to's coffers. The smart part is that Wordpress provides its own optional but (mainly) free, compelling and easy to use cloud-oriented bells and whistles - JetPack - hosted via Paid-for services like spam protection and backups help to fund it, as does the data accumulated as a result. These are great services, well worth paying for, that offer good value to both Wordpress and its users, but there is nothing in Jetpack that is not available in some form elsewhere, and nothing at all that inherently locks you in. Countless millions of people continue to use it because it is really good, but many others use free or paid-for alternatives. also offers trouble-free, reliable, scalable hosting that is, again, entirely portable and easy to find elsewhere. It remains a good source of revenue not because of lock-in but because it is among the best in its class, and it is dead easy to use. Google's approach to Android is, superficially, not too dissimilar, though it is far sneakier in the ways it embeds its services, guards its code more carefully, and is far more restrictive in its conditions: none the less, you can replace all the Google-dependent parts, as Amazon (Fire) and Alibaba (Aliyun) have done. We need more like this. GitHub seems like an obvious one to follow this model as its primary value is in its service provision (for which it already has a good business model) and its community. Given its already very good contributions to open source, it seems odd that it still protects the family jewels so carefully.

  • Elena Robinson January 2, 2016 - 4:48pm

    "..relying on one company and one system.." -- the same thing     like putting all eggs in one bucket..

  • Jon Dron January 2, 2016 - 11:08pm

    @Elena - indeed, except that it is a bucket owned and completely controlled by someone that wants you to buy more eggs or rent a bigger bucket; that may at its discretion decide to replace your eggs with pebbles;  that could and probably will decide that you need a smaller bucket with fewer eggs but that costs more money;  that could at any time take the bucket away completely, leaving you eggless;  that could be taken over by a company that will replace your nice eggs with rotten eggs and then start throwing them at you, sharing pictures of the event with its friends. You would, of course, like to get out of this rotten deal but, once you have moved your eggs into the bucket, they are scrambled by the bucket owner, so you can never get them back in one piece ever again or move them to a different bucket, and you are forced to eat scrambled eggs forever even though you now prefer them hard boiled or you've heard of a great new bucket that offers poaching instead. The issue is essentially one of egg control. The reason I prefer the Wordpress approach is that you get to keep all of your own eggs and can do what you like with them but, if you want, you can pay Wordpress to assure that they remain in one piece, that they don't go off and, if you wish, its chefs will cook them the way you like them.

  • Viorel Tabara January 3, 2016 - 1:05pm

    The other aspect of closed solutions is privacy. As pointed out in this FSF call for donations the proliferation of computers in every aspect of our lives, from home automation to chips in our own bodies, "raises ethical issues inherent in proprietary software". So, closed software is only acceptable where the model of trust is built in other ways. External hosting is as well subject to a model of trust. A Wordpress hosted solution as you pointed out Jon, is acceptable as there is no personal information involved. Things are different when it comes to entire infrastructure as you don't want to have a 3rd party spying on your communication and that's why private clouds powered by open source technologies are becoming popular. As this RedHat page puts it: "Unlike a public cloud, a private cloud is for a single organization. You implement it behind your corporate firewall under IT’s control. A private cloud is great for speeding innovation, handling large compute and storage needs, and securing data".