In a recent article Thom contributed his opinion to the discussion about the openness of Android that started when Google choose to withhold the source code for honeycomb, here are my 2 cents. In the article the obligations GPL puts on Google are made very clear. This makes it clear that Android is indeed an open-source project. However being open-source and being open aren’t always the same thing.
There are many aspects in which to judge the openness of a project, is the code licensed under a open-source license, is the development done openly, is the project governance inclusive and how low is the threshold for involvement are a some of the important aspects that determine how open a project is.
Android is as we have already established undeniably open-source, however on the rest of the criteria Android gets a failing mark. Android doesn’t accept contributions from third parties, there is no community governance and the community gets source dumps after development of a version is considered ready. Or used to get.
So while the open-source status of Android has not changed the openness has. But then again it was not very open to begin with, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Google was willing to sacrifice some more of the openness to further their goals. Companies always act in what they believe to be their best interest, whether that makes them evil, is another matter altogether.
It is however frustrating to see Google so successfully market Android, which isn’t that open, as an truly open project, but that’s not so much Google’s fault, as it’s the market’s for believing them.
About the author:
Professional developer for embedded systems, currently working on projects targetting Android as a platform.