XML Co-Inventor Spurns Oracle for Google

Unwilling to make the corporate voyage from Sun Microsystems to its new owner, the good ship Oracle, XML co-inventor Tim Bray has abandoned ship for the fecund shores of Google.

One could say Google made him a deal he couldn’t refuse. But in a good way, not like in the Godfather.

Bray seems reasonably pleased with his new corporate home, and he’s definitely excited about his new role as developer-advocate for Google’s Android.

Apparently there’s a good, untold story about what sparked his departure from Oracle. Quoting from Bray’s blog:

I’d had an offer to stay with Oracle which I decided to decline; I’ll maybe tell the story when I can think about it without getting that weird spiking-blood-pressure sensation in my eyeballs. So I reached out to a couple of appealing potential next employers, both were interested, and Google seemed like the best bet.

In a column along the right side of his blog, Bray offers a blunt statement of orientation: “I work for Google, but the opinions expressed here are my own, and no other party necessarily agrees with them.”

Indeed, as I read his blog, I got the distinct impression the Google PR team will have its hands full keeping Bray “on message.” Here’s what he has to say about his new employer:

It’s now too big to be purely good or in fact purely anything. I’m sure that tendrils of stupidity and evil are even now finding interstitial breeding grounds whence they will emerge to cause grief. And there are some Google initiatives that I feel no urge to go near.

It’s not exactly Google boilerplate copy, is it? Still, I admire the frankness, honesty, and acuity of the sentiments. It isn’t that Bray doesn’t like Google — he goes on to list plenty of reasons why he’s joined his new employer — it’s just that he isn’t willing to serve as spinmeister or unquestioning apologist for everything the company does or touches. He’d make a lousy corporate publicist, but he’ll probably serve with distinction in his new role.

Bray relishes not only leaving Oracle and joining Google, but also the prospect of competing against Apple in what is popularly and rather tritely referred to as the “mobile-platform war.” (None of this stuff is war, folks, but I understand the need some media types have to sex it up for mass consumption. Readers are seen as dim bulbs, responsive only to the synthetic fertilizer of lurid headlines and shrill sensationalism. I tend to treat my garden a little more organically.)

Anyway, back to Bray’s antipathy toward Apple, which is considerable and genuine. Says Bray:

The iPhone vision of the mobile Internet’s future omits controversy, sex, and freedom, but includes strict limits on who can know what and who can say what. It’s a sterile Disney-fied walled garden surrounded by sharp-toothed lawyers. The people who create the apps serve at the landlord’s pleasure and fear his anger.

I hate it.

I hate it even though the iPhone hardware and software are great, because freedom’s not just another word for anything, nor is it an optional ingredient.

Even though he feels sharp antagonism toward Apple’s vision of the mobile Internet’s future, Bray acknowledges the “greatness” of Apple’s software and hardware. He’s not indiscriminately throwing verbal hand-grenades over the parapet; he’s offering targeted criticism, consistent with an open-systems, developer-friendly worldview.

I look forward to Bray’s post on why he decided not to join Oracle.

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