Is Google Calling Gaim's Shots?

That depends on who you ask.

 By Sean Michael Kerner
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An open source developer is alleging that Google is driving the development of Gaim and bypassing the community. Google refutes the claim.

The search giant hired Sean Egan, the lead developer of the Gaim open source instant messaging project, several months ago to make it easier for other IM clients to use Google Talk's voice features.

The much-anticipated Gaim version 2.0, which is currently in development, was expected to merge code from the gaim-vv (video/voice) project and allow for video and voice support.

But gaim-vv project developer Peter Lawler is alleging that Egan's contributed code on voice support disregards the existing work done by gaim-vv in favor of supporting Google.

Lawler wrote in his blog that the Google-influenced effort kills off many hours of effort put in by others and himself into MSN and Yahoo webcams, and other niftiness to gaim 2.x, and invents more work for them.

Lawler goes onto explain that he's "affronted that a commercial company such as Google would behave like this to the OSS community."

Egan responded on the Gaim development project list that the gaim-vv project did not cover the same work that he's contributed, but rather it concentrated mostly on viewing other people's webcams and was not focused on audio.

"The work I'm doing with Google is about full-duplex audio conversations, which clearly is not covered by gaim-vv as it stands," Egan wrote.

Egan noted that he is adding APIs to handle full-duplex audio connections, and its corresponding GUI in Gaim.

Lawler argues that Egan is essentially just doing Google's bidding rather than work with the community.

"See, this is the problem I have with what you've done, you're the project lead for Gaim, you're hired by Google to bring their voice to Gaim, and in that role you've specifically ignored the previous gaim-vv work," Lawler wrote to Egan in an IM conversation posted on Lawler's blog. "You did look at it, and chose not to use it so as to create even more work for those who are not paid to contribute."

A Google spokesperson told internetnews.com that Egan's decision to take voice and video support in Gaim in a slightly different direction was relatively minor and he was not influenced by Google to do so.

"The voice code Egan wrote is still in the very early stage of development and is being actively discussed, as any new piece of code in Gaim would be," the Google spokesperson explained. "No decisions have been made yet whether this is the direction it will ultimately take or not.

"Sean works here as a software engineer but he's also the maintainer for Gaim in the open source world and we don't infringe upon that," the spokesperson said.

Google is an active supporter of open source projects, infrastructure and people on many different levels.

The Google Summer of Code initiative pumped $2 million into more than 400 different open source project spread across 41 organizations.

A donation of $350,000 was also recently made to Oregon and Portland State Universities in support of open source development.

This article was originally published on Nov 12, 2005
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