EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS


Dear Google: Is AGPL Evil?

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Google, GPL, Microsoft, Windows at 5:15 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

FSF GNU GPLv3Google disregards the AGPL and, as everyone knows, Google Does-No-Evil™, so…

Google loves Free software on its servers. Giving back improvements? Not so much. This continues to be a problem that we mentioned here before [1, 2]. At the moment, Google’s Stein, who is a high-level senior, seems to be doing some damage control. Watch the discussion.

Well, actually, there’s another rather important trend that is conspicuous by its absence: adoption of the Affero GPL. To which Google seems strangely allergic….

But that’s not all. The other day, Google did what it’s exceptionally skilled at protesting against. It made some nifty Web-based features available, but only for Windows (mind highlights in red).


Google’s 3D data has escaped the client and is now a welcome addition to the browser! Today at Google I/O a Google Earth Browser plugin is going to be released. With the plugin installed anybody with a Windows machine will be able to view Google Earth mashups in the comfort of their own browser instead of having to pull up a separate client.

GNU Richard StallmanGoogle could use a gentle reminder here. It was also using ActiveX controls in Google Maps a few years back. You can find my comment and one from DiBona too in the post above. Sympathy is not enough. That’s the same argument which individual Microsoft employees use to defend themselves, passing liability to their superiors. As in, “it came from above.”

Disclaimer: There’s no bias against Google here. The company’s recruiters approached me a couple of times for interviews. I also needed to correct them when they claimed Google Earth to be their ‘innovation’ (it’s an acquisition really).

“The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity”

Andre Gide quotes

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one


  1. Shane Coyle said,

    May 31, 2008 at 8:35 am


    Honestly, I am not a fan of the AGPL. To risk sounding Ballmer-esque, I feel it’s a bit ‘viral’.

    I have no problem with the SAAS concept – I think it is adding value to the software, whether it’s simply universal accessibility from anywhere in the world, simplicity of not installing and maintaining a local version, providing online storage and/or collaboration, etc.

    What GPL allows is use of the software for any purpose, and doesn’t really kick in until distribution, if Google uses GPL software internally they are not required to share their modifications. I’m cool with that.

    Google, for the most part, distributes HTML and we can always see the source on that. You send them a request in HTTP, they process it internally using whatever software they like (maybe something GPL), then respond in HTML.

    Take a certiorari business as an example, that receives an application of some sort in the mail, processes it using a modified version of a GPL program, then responds via a document they created – would anyone argue that business MUST be compelled to share their modifications? Not unless they distributed the software.

    I don’t see why, if the service is rendered via the internet, people get more upset. The main thing, in my mind, is that whatever software they do use, they abide by the terms and conditions of the license, whether its BSD GPL or Proprietary.

  2. eMBee said,

    May 31, 2008 at 10:42 am


    you are missing the point. the proponents of the AGPL are not claiming that SAAS providers are violating the GPL. they are claiming that SAAS providers reduce the freedom of the end user.

    the goal of free software is to allow the end user to read, modify and share the source of the application.

    if i can not read, modify and share the source then this goal of free software is not reached. regardless of the license. yes, the license (including the GPL) does allow that to happen, so this is correct and legal, but as a user i am still at a disadvantage.

    the goal of the AGPL is to change that, and ensure that the end user will always be able to read, modify and share the source of the application.

    it is a simple test really: can you fix the application you are using? can you share it with others? can you run it in your own SAAS server?

    if i want to be sure that you will always have these rights with my application, then i must use the AGPL for my code because otherwise i can not help to protect the rights that i want you to have.

    greetings, eMBee.

  3. Shane Coyle said,

    May 31, 2008 at 10:49 am


    I see the point of the AGPL, I don’t see the point of criticizing folks for not selecting to use it.

    In the end, it’s the developer’s choice what terms to set for their own code and then it’s the next person’s choice if it’s worth complying or creating their own from scratch, and that is for any license.

    My point was, I don’t embrace the AGPL personally, and certainly don’t think I’m "evil". Unless someone is saying Google is using an AGPL application and not sharing their mods, this is a non-issue to me.

  4. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 31, 2008 at 11:11 am



    Fair point. I don’t feel very strongly about it, but I was just a tad disappointed that Google did not offer the choice to developers whose project it’s hosting. it created a chicken-an-egg problem or a self-fulfilling prophecy for Google’s benefit. I actually posted a comment about this in Glyn Moody’s blog, pointing out to Greg Stein that his ‘excuse’ contradicted DiBona’s (Glyn Moody lost that comment and he E-mailed me back this morning to say he could not recover anything… he had similar problem before with GMail flagging Blogger/Blogspot as SPAM… yes, ironic, I know).

    As for the FSF’s view, early in the month I attended Stallman’s talk. He made some good points about potential of embedding malicious features in programs that are run remotely. The longer it goes on for, the more data is likely to be harvested and freedoms taken away. Remember Google’s withdrawal of that DRM-esque video service?

  5. Shane Coyle said,

    May 31, 2008 at 11:43 am


    My problem with Moody here is, if the problem is that the vendor you are mooching off of isn’t providing a choice you want in a drop-down-box, you can put pressure on them to add that choice – or, the beauty of the whole Free Software Philosophy and the Free Market System, tell them to Fork Off and let’s create a site thats called agplcodehosting.org or whatever and we’ll be the next Google Code, assuming that AGPL is getting more popular…

    Best part is, we’ll use Google ads to fund their own competitor. Hilarious.

    I, personally, wouldn’t be happy with Google’s fiat of limiting the choices of licenses if I were using their services, and would consider taking my "business" elsewhere – if there is an elsewhere, or at least threatening to. Maybe we should consider the contact the webmaster button before calling them Evil?

    Of course, upon closer inspection, it also looks like ‘we’ are the ones who brought the "E-word" into it, so maybe I should shut up now…

    My whole deal with Free Software is that it tickles me in a Libertarian way that nothing else left in the U.S. of A. seems to – it’s the last bastion of hope I suppose.

    Free Software ensures that anyone with the inclination can take that same software and make their own Google, just add in the drive, endless work and luck along with a dozen or so other factors, not the least of which is timing, and hope "it blends". ;^ )

    So I guess I’m saying "Don’t Hate, Innovate." Or, we can always Boycott their asses.

  6. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 31, 2008 at 12:05 pm


    …the beauty of the whole Free Software Philosophy and the Free Market System, tell them to Fork Off and let’s create a site thats called agplcodehosting.org or whatever and we’ll be the next Google Code, assuming that AGPL is getting more popular…

    Best part is, we’ll use Google ads to fund their own competitor. Hilarious.

    Some say that Google was able to thrive so quickly because, unlike many other companies, it did not rely on Microsoft technologies such as Windows. It’s hard to compete against a company whose technology you depend on. How much would 1,000,000 Windows servers cost to license? What about scalability? Performance? What happens when one your server farms gets dinged by malware?

    Of course, upon closer inspection, it also looks like ‘we’ are the ones who brought the “E-word” into it, so maybe I should shut up now…

    Oh, I used the wording in a polite and folksy fashion. This conversation has gone on for over a month and from several different directions Google was gently pressured to just ‘hack’ their drop-down box. then copy and paste that GPL thingie and prepend an “A” to it. ;-)

    By the way, recall what Mark Shuttleworth said about Google’s mantra last year.

  7. eMBee said,

    May 31, 2008 at 2:47 pm


    The main thing, in my mind, is that whatever software they do use, they abide by the terms and conditions of the license, whether its BSD GPL or Proprietary.

    here is actually another point that is missing a detail: it is not the company providing a service that is using the software (they are using it too, but that’s a different issue), but it is the user of the service who is using it. and it is that user of the service who is not getting access to the source without the AGPL.

    greetings, eMBee.

  8. Shane Coyle said,

    May 31, 2008 at 3:17 pm


    In terms of a hosted app, that does make a very valid point I overlooked. Good point.

  9. akf said,

    June 1, 2008 at 3:13 pm


    Gee, Google is not the only hosting service out there.
    The FSF is of course hosting AGPL software. Their hosting service is at http://savannah.nongnu.org/

    …but they are also not accepting just any license. Although they are no longer that picky as they once were.

  10. Jordi Gutiérrez Hermoso said,

    June 3, 2008 at 7:05 pm


    Google, for the most part, distributes HTML and we can always see the source on that. You send them a request in HTTP, they process it internally using whatever software they like (maybe something GPL), then respond in HTML.

    Well, Google heavily obfuscates whatever it can. Have you actually tried to read the HTML of any of its webpages? Elements have randomised names, no whitespaces, lots of trickery that’s not human-readable.

    But the HTML is the least of it. We all know how to render webpages. I don’t care if Google obfuscates HTML. It’s much more serious that it also obfuscates its javascript, to the extent that Konqueror cannot (or could not?) produce a decent experience on Gmail. And what is the difference between interfacing with software that’s actually sitting in your machine and software that is sitting on a remote machine? If you believe in a right (yes, right) to examine, distribute, and modify the source of all software you use, then I argue that it’s no different to use software over an internet connection as it is to use it locally.

  11. Shane Coyle said,

    June 4, 2008 at 8:53 am


    The difference is, it’s not on my machine, and I am not compelled to use any particular companies’ services if I don’t like them (take MS and Novell, for instance).

    So don’t go on Google’s services/servers – I don’t think I have a right to their code, instead start your own and make sure what you do is AGPL. Again, unless they are using AGPL software and violating the license, I see no issue here – including their JS, which is their JS.

    I don’t care that such things as proprietary software exist – live and let live, to each their own, etc – but I do care when companies like Novell eviscerate the GPL for a week of the monopolist’s profits.

    If Novell distributed Suse BSD Enterprise, I would never have made this site.

  12. Jordi Gutiérrez Hermoso said,

    June 4, 2008 at 2:45 pm


    I can’t figure out how to quote here, so please forgive my amateurish attempts.

    You say “the difference is, it’s not on my machine.” Gmail, for all intents and purposes, is running code on your machine. So are Google apps and so forth. Your machine is the one that is interpreting a lot of the javascript and possibly other things.

    At any rate, why would it matter if it’s on your machine or not? It’s code you are using. It’s code that affects results. It’s code that sometimes you are forced to use.

    I do believe we have a right to code that affects us. The moment “their code” is being distributed to me or its results are being distributed to me, ownership gets very fuzzy. Sure, you can say “don’t use it if you don’t like it”, and that’s more or less what I do most of the time, with any code, regardless of its distribution channel. But being forced for whatever reason to use proprietary software (e.g. by an employer, as I now currently am forced with Google’s apps) is not something we should tolerate.

  13. Roy Schestowitz said,

    June 4, 2008 at 3:11 pm


    Even with the code available, there’s remote logging, unless you install it yourself, locally.

  14. Shane Coyle said,

    June 4, 2008 at 10:38 pm


    I think we have much different definitions of ‘forced’.

  15. Jordi Gutiérrez Hermoso said,

    June 5, 2008 at 7:16 am


    Well, I have a choice to not use Google apps if I find a different employer, I guess. But avoiding proprietary software is not that easy, and we shouldn’t have to avoid it, because free choices should be available.

What Else is New

  1. EPO Did Not Want to Take Down One Techrights Article, It Wanted to Take Down Many Articles Using Intimidation, SLAPPing, and Psychological Manipulation Late on a Friday Night

    Recalling the dirty tactics by which the European Patent Office sought to remove criticism of its dirty secret deals with large corporations, for whom it made available and was increasingly offering preferential treatment

  2. The European Private Office: What Was Once a Public Service is Now Crony Capitalism With Private Contractors

    The increasing privatisation of the European Patent Office (EPO), resembling what happens in the UK to the NHS, shows that the real goal is to crush the quality of the service and instead serve a bunch of rich and powerful interests, in defiance of the original goals of this well-funded (by taxpayers) organisation

  3. Microsoft Once Again Disregards People's Settings and Abuses Them, Again Pretends It's Just an Accident

    A conceited corporation, Microsoft, shows not only that it exploits its botnet to forcibly download massive binaries without consent but also that it vainly overrides people's privacy settings to spy on these people, sometimes with help from malicious hardware vendors such as Dell or Lenovo

  4. When the EPO Liaised With Capone (Literally) to Silence Bloggers, Delete Articles

    A dissection of the EPO's current media strategy, which involves not only funneling money into the media but also actively silencing opposing views

  5. Blogger Who Wrote About the EPO's Abuses Retires

    Bloggers' independent rebuttal capability against a media apparatus that is deep in the EPO's pocket is greatly diminished as Jeremy Phillips suddenly retires

  6. Leaked: EPO Award of €880,000 “in Order to Address the Media Presence of the EPO” (Reputation Laundering)

    The European Patent Office, a public body, wastes extravagant amounts of money on public relations (for 'damage control', like FIFA's) in an effort to undermine critics, not only among staff (internally) but also among the media (externally)

  7. Links 27/11/2015: KDE Plasma 5.5 Plans, Oracle Linux 7.2

    Links for the day

  8. Documents Needed: Contract or Information About EPO PR/Media Campaign to Mislead the World

    Rumour that the EPO spends almost as much as a million US dollars “with some selected press agencies to refurbish the image of the EPO”

  9. Guest Post: The EPO, EPC, Unitary Patent and the Money Issue

    Remarks on the Unitary Patent (UP) and the lesser-known aspects of the EPO and EPC, where the “real issue is money, about which very little is discussed in public...”

  10. Saving the Integrity of the European Patent Office (EPO)

    Some timely perspective on what's needed at the European Patent Office, which was detabilised by 'virtue' of making tyrants its official figureheads

  11. A Call for Bloggers and Journalists: Did EPO Intimidate and Threaten You Too? Please Speak Out.

    An effort to discover just how many people out there have been subjected to censorship and/or self-censorship by EPO aggression against the media

  12. European Patent Office (EPO) a “Kingdom Above the EU Countries, a Tyranny With ZERO Accountability”

    Criticism of the EPO's thuggish behaviour and endless efforts to crush dissenting voices by all means available, even when these means are in clear violation of international or European laws

  13. Links 26/11/2015: The $5 Raspberry Pi Zero, Running Sans Systemd Gets Hard

    Links for the day

  14. EPO Management Needs to Finally Recognise That It Itself is the Issue, Not the Staff or the Unions

    A showing of dissent even from the representatives whom the EPO tightly controls and why the latest union-busting goes a lot further than most people realise

  15. Even the EPO Central Staff Committee is Unhappy With EPO Management

    The questions asked by the Central Staff Committee shared for the public to see that not only a single union is concerned about the management's behaviour

  16. The Broken Window Economics of Patent Trolls Are Already Coming to Europe

    The plague which is widely known as patent trolls (non-practicing entities that prey on practicing companies) is being spread to Europe, owing in part to misguided policies and patent maximalists

  17. Debunking the EPO's Latest Marketing Nonsense From Les Échos and More on Benoît Battistelli's Nastygram to French Politician

    Our detailed remarks about French brainwash from the EPO's media partner (with Benoît Battistelli extensively quoted) and the concerns increasingly raised by French politicians, who urge for national or even continental intervention

  18. The Sun King Delusion: The Views of Techrights Are Just a Mirror of EPO Staff Unions

    Tackling some emerging spin we have seen coming from Battistelli's private letters -- spin which strives to project the views of Techrights onto staff unions and why it's very hypocritical a form of spin

  19. Links 25/11/2015: Webconverger 33.1, Netrunner 17 Released

    Links for the day

  20. United They Stand: FFPE-EPO Supports Suspended Staff Representatives From SUEPO

    An obscure union from the Dutch side of things at the EPO is expressing support for the suspended colleagues from SUEPO (more German than Dutch)

  21. Censoring WIPR Article About Censorship by EPO

    A testament to how terrified journalists have become when it comes to EPO coverage, to the point of deleting entire paragraphs

  22. Censorship at the EPO Escalates: Now We Have Threats to Sue Publishers

    Having already blocked Techrights, the EPO's management proceeds to further suppressions of speech, impeding its staff's access to independently-distributed information (neither ordinary staff nor management)

  23. Response to Bogus Accusations That EPO Staff Protests Are Really an Attempt to Derail UPC

    Common myths about staff protests in the European Patent Office (EPO) debunked, with some additional background and general perspective on recent events, the unitary patent (UPC) and so on

  24. New Heise Article Makes It Clear That 'Nazi'-Themed Accusations Against the Suspended Board Judge Were Insufficiently Substantiated

    The personal attacks on a judge who was illegally suspended (a so-called 'house ban') increasingly look like the management's own campaign of defamation, mostly intended to marginalise and punish a judge who spoke about serious charges against VP4 (Željko Topić)

  25. Links 24/11/2015: Asus Chromebit CS10, Second Linux 4.4 RC

    Links for the day

  26. European Central Bank Staff Committee Adds to Growing Pressure on Abusive EPO Management

    The staff representatives of the European Central Bank E-mail their colleagues -- with European Central Bank managers' approval -- regarding the European Patent Office and its attacks on staff unions

  27. Gross Violation of Workers' Rights in EPO: Denial of Christmas Vacation/Leave for Slower Workers

    A look at an E-mail from within the EPO which shows how Christmas is used to squeeze staff, urging them to work even faster (despite speed gains) or lose their Christmas leave

  28. The Bogus Narrative Floated by EPO Management: Our Judges and Examiners Are Armed and Violent

    A look at the union-busting and protest-crushing moves from high-level EPO managers, who are trying to convince politicians that they do so in an effort to stop terrorists and neo-Nazis

  29. Support SUEPO or End Up Like They and Some of the Boards Did

    SUEPO, the fast-growing staff union of the EPO, increasingly needs the support and protection offered by action and participation from staff

  30. NRC Handelsblad (Dutch Evening Newspaper) Speaks About EPO's Refusal to Accept Court Orders From The Hague

    Article explains the depths of the issues inside the EPO and the unacceptable immunity that management at the EPO continues to exploit, shaming or discrediting the very notion of the rule of law in Europe


RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time


Recent Posts