Google announced on Monday that they are contributing some of their internally developed enhancements to MySQL back to the community. They released a patch for MySQL 4 that improves on some high availability features, and a few python scripts that help manage MySQL clusters.
In my mind, this is a great example of how open-source software works. MySQL of course, is a widely used database application that Google uses for many things. Since it is open-source, they are able to modify some of the functionality to meet some of their needs. Then, when those new functions or fixes are stable, they release that code back to the community for possible incorporation into the mainline MySQL code.
One common misconception that I see people make about open source software is that they seem to think that it is developed individuals who just do it for the experience or for the fun of it. While that is true to some extent, the contributions that companies make is also significant.
I’m still struggling with getting involved in contributing back to some open source projects. I’ve submitted fixes and documented bugs for the occasional program, but I’m still trying to find the right project where I can make regular, meaningful contributions. Maybe I’ll find it someday.