Google 'Go' Name Brings Accusations Of 'Evil'

Developers want Google to change the name of its new Go language because there's already a Go! language.

Thomas Claburn, Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

November 11, 2009

2 Min Read

Among the open issues that require attention in Google's new Go programing language, Issue 9 may be the most difficult to resolve.

Issue 9 on Google Code's Go language project page is summarized succinctly by software architect Frank McCabe: "I have already used the name for *MY* programming language."

McCabe's Go! programming language is described in a book that he published in 2007 and in a research paper published in 2004.

"I do not have a trademark on my language," McCabe said in an e-mail. "It was intended as a somewhat non-commercial language in the tradition of logic programming languages. It is in the tradition of languages like Prolog. In particular, my motivation was bringing some of the discipline of software engineering to logic programming."

McCabe, who works at San Jose, Calif.-based Starview Technologies, says that his objection to Google's decision to use "Go" as a name is that he has been using the name for years. "The earliest conception of it was around 2000," he said. "It takes a lot of effort to produce a reasonably well-designed language. I am concerned that the 'big guy' will end up steam-rollering over me. I do not have resources to invest in legal action; but do not intend to let Google keep the name without them being explicit that they are steam-rollering over us."

McCabe's indignation resonates with the over 120 developers who have commented on Issue 9. "I agree with majority on this," wrote developer Jose Camporro. "Google should change the name of this language."

Several of those posting comments have suggested that Google is violating its "Don't be evil" motto by ignoring McCabe's prior use of the name.

Other commenters support renaming the language "Issue 9," a reference both to the dispute thread and to Bell Labs' distributed operating system Plan 9, which was developed in part by Google Go creators Rob Pike and Ken Thompson.

In comment 300, McCabe addresses the suggestion that he should just let Google use the name and benefit from increased search attention that his Go! language will receive as a result. "My response to that is that I was not actively looking for this advertising," he wrote. "It was not me who picked a clashing name."

Google, for all its search prowess, appears to have been unaware of McCabe's Go!.

"We recently became aware of the Go! issue and are now looking into the matter further," a company spokesperson said in an e-mail.

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About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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