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Chris DiBona, open source program manager at Google, said that the idea for the SOC came directly from Google's founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page. According to DiBona, the idea was to have students "exposed to real developers and the open source development community. We also wanted the open source community to be infused with the excitement, fun and innovation that new people can bring."
The name for the program came from the Summer of Love, a name given to the summer of 1967 in San Francisco, which is widely perceived as the apex of Sixties counterculture. In addition, DiBona said, "We wanted to have the word 'code' in the title as a sidelong glance to Google's Code Web site," a site maintained by Google for external developers interested in the company's use of open source software.
DiBona said that the SOC was designed to benefit everyone involved in it. Students had the chance to work on real projects, rather than academic ones, and to get paid while gaining experience and making contacts. FOSS projects benefited from getting new code and having the chance to recruit new developers.
"It was my thought," DiBona said, "that through a program like this we could infuse new blood into some long established projects."
Matt Warden, a student who participated in the program, agreed, suggesting that the program "broke the barriers of the traditional open source software meritocracy that have kept highly skilled students from contributing in the past, while still maintaining the quality barriers between submissions and code included in releases."
As sponsor of the SOC, Google also benefited, although less directly. DiBona did not mention the obvious publicity value, but he pointed out that as a company that makes heavy use of FOSS, Google benefits with everyone else. DiBona noted that Google also "gets to see up and coming developers at work," which might aid in the company's recruiting of new employees in the near future.
The program was announced on Google Code in June 2005 and publicized with posters at a few universities. The program's organization was simple: FOSS projects posted a list of suggested projects and selected mentors to oversee them, and students were invited to apply. Mentors could select which students to work with, using whatever criteria they chose. At the end of the summer, students who completed their projects would receive $4,500.
The original program called for 200 students. However, after an announcement on Slashdot, interest was so high that Google doubled the number of applications it would accept.
In the end, DiBona said the Summer of Code received 8,744 applications and accepted more than 400 projects, with 41 FOSS projects participating. Major beneficiaries included the Apache Software Foundation with 38, KDE with 24, and FreeBSD with 20. Smaller and more specialized projects also benefited, with WINE, Samba, and Mambo each receiving six.
Results are still coming coming in, but Google estimates that more than 88% of projects were completed.
Confirming this completion rate is difficult, because, as might be expected with the FOSS development model, many projects are continuing even though the program is over. Some, too, seem to have changed direction as they developed.
Nor was this completion rate uniform. Ubuntu, for example, reports a completion rate of only 64%, and KDE reports a 67% completion rate. However, talking to students and mentors, it seems clear that, despite varying success rates, a wide variety of new projects has been added to FOSS code bases.
Summarizing more than 400 projects is impossible, but a random sampling of projects demonstrates the diversity. For the GNOME project, student assignments included a project to improve startup time, document revision control in Nautilus, and improve encrypted folder support.
MozDev assignments focused largely on localizations of Mozilla, Firefox, and Thunderbird into Hindi, Latvian, Thai, and Vietnamese languages, but also included a Thunderbird phone client, a graphical theme builder for Mozilla, and a BitTorrent extension for Firefox. Ubuntu projects focused on desktop tools, with GNOME Panel enhancements, file search, and graphical configuration tools among the assignments. Other projects showed a similar variety.Next: Reactions from students