Everyone knows that there are idealists, and there are pragmatists, and the two don't mix. Right? Well, the world is rarely that black and white. Want proof? A key name in the history of open source and the open web has just gone to work for a company-devouring corporation.
If you're somehow unaware, Chris Messina is an open source and open standards advocate who's been involved in many key stages of the openness and collaboration movement.
Key moments in the history of Firefox (news, site), BarCamp, the co-working movement, OpenID (news, site), Activity Streams and numerous other events, technologies and organizations all have him somewhere in the picture.
Messina Going to Google
Sure, the company motto of "Do No Evil" sounds all friendly and fuzzy, but don't forget that Google is a huge corporation and has been known to do things that huge corporations do. So did the evil corporate overlords send black helicopters and toughs in ski masks to give him a brain transplant?
From an interview on TheSocialWeb.tv Messina stated that while this was a difficult decision, he felt that out of all of the companies he talked to, Google had "the most clear embrace of 'open'" on where and how it makes sense. Google's Data Liberation Front has been one step in that direction. He states that there's a new team being built and he'll continue there to push for the open social web to succeed as their new Open Web Advocate.
As is also pointed out in the interview, and as I pointed out the other day, Google is also a good place to be if you seriously want to push for the adoption of protocols and standards. The company's offerings are so vital to so many people on so many levels that requiring adoption to use their services or just implementing something that people want to use can heavily shift the tables.
As host John McCrea pointed out, Google is a "big stage to play on."
Watch the interview for yourself here:
What Else Might Messina Be After?
Another possibility for Messina's move might be to get greater support for some major changes he's suggesting for OpenID, as a board member of the OpenID Foundation. For a while now he's been expressing his concerns that OpenID is difficult to use, and that users often don't understand what OpenID is because it's more conceptual than an actual product.
If you look at his blog post "Does OpenID need to be hard?" you see one little hint that Google might factor into this equation (well some big graphical hints). Also, look at the fact that people all over are using Facebook Connect to log into many sites while OpenID has existed for far longer.
He wants to see OpenID become simplified so that people understand it better, can use it easier and still have choice. Toward this end, Messina is proposing OpenID Connect. This is another post where we see a reference to Google, and it may very well be that part of his work there will be to get Google heavily involved in making this happen for everyone from desktops to mobile devices.
So maybe there's a method to his madness. Let's see what the next few months' of announcements include.