Opposite Day

Two pieces of recent news have my head spinning. Both are instances of technology companies acting in exactly the opposite manner from their ideals (and public statements). The first is Microsoft announcement of an open-source version of BigTable

Instead of creating a proprietary copy of these pieces of infrastructure, Powerset decided instead to turn to Hadoop, a Lucene subproject that is a framework for running data-intensive applications on large clusters of commodity hardware…Unfortunately, there was no Hadoop equivalent to Google’s BigTable storage engine.  Because we have benefited greatly by leveraging the available Hadoop technology, Powerset decided to give back to the community by developing an open-source analog to BigTable that is built on top of HDFS (Hadoop Distributed File System). After all, we need to develop it, anyway, it isn’t part of the Powerset “secret sauce,” and we, in turn, could benefit from contributions from other members of the community.

After years of FUD about how open source is buggy, insecure, and costlier than proprietary software, this MS announcement had me doing a double-take. I then read that Google is advertising its Chrome browser on television

…we designed a Google TV Ads campaign which we hope will raise awareness of our browser, and also help us better understand how television can supplement our other online media campaigns. So today, we’re pleased to announce that we’re using Google TV Ads to run our Chrome ad on various television networks starting this weekend. We’re excited to see how this test goes and what impact television might have on creating more awareness of Google Chrome.

Now my head was spinning. Google has crooned for years about how it purposely does not advertise any of its own services, mandating that Engineers’ projects must spread by word of mouth alone. I’ve been hearing this (to the earliest of my memory, though maybe they’ve been saying it for even longer) since 2001, and I heard it again as recently as nine months ago when Googler Kai-Fu Lee repeated the talking point in front of an audience of hundreds during his SIGIR 2008 keynote.  

So now Microsoft is releasing open source code, and Google is marketing itself on television.  It must be opposite day.

Update: It may be worth noting the actual technologies involved, through which opposite day is occurring. Microsoft (Powerset) is going open-source via a search-based technology, while Google is going old-school television marketing through what essentially amounts to an operating system (Chrome as an application programming layer / virtual web OS).  It must be double opposite day.

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