Everything is ready. All systems are go. We're now accepting applications for the third Google Summer of Code, Google's program for introducing college students to open source software development.

Not everyone knows it, but open source plays an enormous role at Google. Each time you use the Google search engine, you're using open source software. Google relies on the Linux kernel, GCC, python and Samba and commits code into each of those projects.

We also work closely with the open source developer community. Googlers have released hundreds of thousands of lines of code, both as patches to existing projects and as new and wholly open source projects, such as the Google Web Toolkit. We've funded great work at universities and we host many thousands of active open source projects on code.google.com's project hosting facility. Just shy of a year old, this hosting system has become one of the largest online development communities ever developed, second only to our friends at SourceForge.Net.

But back to the Google Summer of Code. Last year we paid 630 students from 450 schools in 90 countries $4,500 each to work on open source software projects. These projects, selected by some 100 open source mentoring organizations from over 6,000 applications, provided students with invaluable real-world programming experience.

Many of our former students are still actively involved with their mentoring organizations. Angela Byron, for example, started working with the Drupal project during Google Summer of Code 2005; she went on to become an organization administrator for the project for Google Summer of Code 2006 and now sits on the board of the newly created Drupal Association. Other students, such as Steffen Pingel, have been voted in as committers to their projects. Steffen began working with the Eclipse Mylar project for Google Summer of Code 2006 and was voted in as a committer just as he was completing his project work. Still others have gone on to internships or full-time jobs with us or other companies, including IBM and NetApp, or have even started their own consulting businesses.

This year we're happy to say that we're expanding the program to accommodate an additional 200 students and some additional open source organizations. If you're a college student who'd like to program over the summer for the good of open source, we're taking applications until March 24. We look forward to seeing yours!