Nov 06 AT 7:06 PM Taylor Wimberly 27 Comments

Google changes direction with Android Open Source Project

Everyone knows that Android is open source, right? Well that depends on who you talk with and their exact definition of open source. Some might claim Android is fully open and others might refer to it as fauxpen source.

Google originally created the AOSP (Android Open Source Project) so that the community had full visibility into platform evolution and decision-making. This allowed anyone who was interested in exploring and contributing to Android to use the Android Open Source Project resources.

A lot has changed between the release of Android 1.0 to 2.0. This is evident in recent changes that were made to the project roles page. In order to see the changes that were made, we must compare a cached page with the current page.

Do a Google search for the project roles page and click "cached".

Do a Google search for the project roles page and click "cached".

The following sections were removed.

The Android Open Source Project has been structured to ensure that:

  • The community has full visibility into platform evolution and decision-making.
  • Contributions are recognized and rewarded.
  • Android achieves commercial relevance.

The Core Technical Team is responsible for the following:

  • Prepare roadmaps for Android open source releases.
  • Approve the set up of new projects and select Project Leads as needed.
  • Be the public face for the Android Open Source Project.

Google also removed a section near the bottom that listed the requirements of becoming a member for the Core Technical Team.

What does this mean?

I don’t claim to be an expert on open source development, but I will do my best to explain the situation based on the information I have gathered. (If someone wants to step in correct me, I welcome your input.)

From what I can tell, Android is not a community project in the sense that most other open source projects operate. Android (as I see it) is totally controlled and managed by Google.

Instead of everyday members of the “community” driving the platform, you have certain members of the OHA (Open Handset Alliance) like HTC and Motorola who make significant contributions. We know this based on recent statements from Motorola executives that told us their engineers were working closely with Google on Android 2.0.

Is it necessarily a bad thing that Google is the primary driver of Android? Not at all. Without Google, Android would be nowhere close to what it is today.

I’m still confused. What are you saying?

Parts of Android are open and others are not. A few pieces like the kernel are licensed under the GPL and made available when product ships. For example, Google just released the kernel for Droid (android-omap-2.6.29-eclair). Other parts of the Android framework are under the Apache License and can remain closed as long as Google likes.

This is the reason why the popular CyanogenMod has not been updated to Android 2.0. Google has yet to release the full source code for Eclair and there is no time frame for doing so.

Ok you totally lost me.

Android is developed behind closed doors, but anyone can still make contributions. The Verizon Droid was actually the first phone to receive a significant number of open source contributions from the community. However, Google has not released the full source code so it is hard to tell what those contributions were.

Google and select members of the OHA decide the roadmap for Android, but it will no longer be made public. The reason for this is because of commercial deadlines. Google does not want to publish a roadmap of features and then be criticized for failing to deliver when they have a product deadline to meet.

In order for Android to be a commercially viable product (and show up on all those new phones you love), parts of it must remain closed and be controlled by Google. That is just the way it is.

So when will Eclair source code be released?

I have no clue when Android 2.0 source will be released. Your guess is as good as mine. The following quote comes from our favorite Android engineer Jean-Baptiste Queru over on the official Google Groups page.

There are a number of things that need to happen before any
Open-Source release can happen, and those haven’t all happened for
Eclair yet. For all I know all of those things will eventually happen.

The overall process for any such release routinely takes a few weeks,
depending of course on the size of the release, and Eclair is a big

I’m afraid that’s about all I’m allowed to say at the moment. As a
technical person, I can’t make actual commitments or discuss specific

Until that happens, most of us will be stuck with Android 1.6 (Donut). He mentions it could be a few weeks, but I’m thinking it might be a few months. I would love to be wrong.

For more discussion on the release of Android 2.0 see this article which contains a bunch of quotes from carriers and handset makers. I kind of get the feeling we won’t know anything solid for awhile. If you want an Android 2.0 phone this holiday season, it looks like Droid is your only choice.

[Thank you disconn3ct for some tips used in this article]

Taylor is the founder of Android and Me. He resides in Dallas and carries the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One as his daily devices. Ask him a question on Twitter or Google+ and he is likely to respond. | Ethics statement

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  • Vince

    This is sad :\ I’m starting to wonder why I chose Android to start with. Early adopters of the platform get the shaft. Well played Google. Exclusivity for an Open Source Project? Never thought I’d say this about Android.

  • Skeet

    Obviously it isn’t Open Source in the correct usage of the word, IT is faux-pen source. That doesn’t take away from the fact that its a viable alternative to iPhone OS and is awesome in 2.0! I just got my Droid today and I’m in love with it!

  • Justin Shapcott

    LOL… Android is only a partially viable alternative to iPhone at this stage. At least you don’t (necessarily) have to buy a new phone to get the updates to iPhone OS.

  • Pablo

    As I read on IRC, the AOSP team got restructured just recently, and the 2.0 got caught in between… Here is the original excerpt (jasta is not a googler, but I believe he works for t-mobile or some other carrier with android-related stuff, might have contacts with google)

    nov 05 01:28:55 you guys do realize that the AOSP has new management and internal structure right?

    nov 05 01:29:05 this change happened not too long ago…

    nov 05 01:30:09 and why did all those changes to management happen?

    nov 05 01:30:20 BUGabundo: because it was a mess before.
    nov 05 01:30:32 and it is a mess now, so google realizing that decided to make some changes to improve it.
    nov 05 01:30:45 they have a new internal mandate on the AOSP.
    nov 05 01:31:12 and it is A Good Thing. so your speculation on the woes of the 2.0 release is not very timely — 2.0 is just got in the fodder of this transition.
    nov 05 01:31:21 s/got/caught/*

    nov 05 01:36:07 there is nothing sinister or evil going on at google, they’re just “churning”
    nov 05 01:36:10 as i said.

    nov 05 01:36:26 they had a very recent internal change on the AOSP, a fairly significant one at that, and are working through some issue.s
    nov 05 01:37:07 i can’t give you any more detail than that for obvious reasons but i can try to allay your fears: everything is going fine.
    nov 05 01:38:55 i for one am excited by the changes happening to the AOSP. past eclair, we should see some very positive dealings with OEMs and vendors.

    make of that what you will, but from this and other things i have heard, the change should be for good :)

  • Tim H.

    It does seem odd when you put it this way:

    “Droid was actually the first phone to receive a significant number of open source contributions from the community. However, Google has not released the full source code so it is hard to tell what those contributions were.”

    In the long run, someone needs to control the releases, and Google has been doing a good job of it. If I am only waiting a couple weeks past this “exclusivity” for a good ahead of the release, I’m ok with that… but it does concern me a bit as to how/why this “exclusivity” has taken place. I just wish we could get more details as to why, instead of it being all hush-hush.

    … really Justin? How about paying for updates if you bought an iTouch

  • Justin Shapcott

    We are not talking about the iPod Touch, we are talking about phones. I have an iPod Video that still works just fine for me. If I am not mistaken iPhone OS 3.X is running on first generation iPhones…

    • Andrew VanVlack

      Ya but when the gave the 3.0 update out they left featurs out, not because the phone couldent handle it but to get ppl to upgrade. The only reason g1 wouldent get the update… even though I’m pritty shure it will is because of lack of system storage.

      • nEx.Software

        What features were those?

        • Adrian

          I have a first-gen iPhone running 3.0. Unlike the iPhone 3G S we didn’t get voice control, internet tethering or MMS.

          • nEx.Software

            I heard that MMS required a hardware change. It wouldn’t surprise me if USB Tethering also would require a hardware change.

  • JJ

    A little bit sad, but not totally unexpected I suppose. :-(

    Great article though Taylor!!!

  • Stephane

    twas fun while it lasted. I’ll always love Android. I didn’t buy my G1 in search for another open source OS, but the loyalty towards Google and the people behind it. And I’m sure that is the same for other people, or something similar to that.

  • Thomas Hansen

    I’ve been a supporter of Google due to the fact I legitimately believed that projects like Wave and Android were made for the better of technology. They are slowly and some what creepily gradually expanding profit on projects once believed to better technology. A perfect example is Google Chrome, originally a browser takes profit on distributing to computer manufacturers but is still advertised as a “Open-Source” project.

    Honestly I blame myself for not recognizing this from the G1, when you have to put a “with Google” on the back to get full benefits it’s not for the better of technology its for the better of Google. Android was never intended for true open source.

  • Jeff

    Propaganda, propaganda, propaganda androidandme.

  • alexander

    Ok, it’s all about bussiness and bussiness is about making money. That’s it. Noone is giving you anything for free. Google needs tremendous amounts of money to stay where it’s now and survive amongst giants like ms and apple. So they will release eclair when they release it. The thing about google promoting and subsidising open source is not that they want to gove everyone something for free. It’s about adverdising and market share. The more popular the platform gets, the less open it gets. But you are all on macs and pc’s there, how many of you use linux, right. I love ope source nad it’s the main reason I jumped on the android wave, but it can’t stay like this for long, that’s the reality we live in. I don’t think that software will be the same after google, they have changed a lot.

  • Skeet

    Survive against giants like Apple? Please, Google is the Walmart of cyberspace.

  • Kaitlin Beckman

    I wish someone would boot iPhone from the top because of its aps policy but I dont want really want the big G to get any bigger….

  • Jim

    Reminds me of OpenSolaris. Open source but last time i looked OpenSolaris was still being developed behind a Sun wall.

  • newspeak

    I am putting down my pitchfork and flaming torch….android is still the best option in my opinion if they take their time releaseing eclair even if its to honer a exclusivity agreement with verizon …it doesn’t matter because it will be released eventually….I like where they are going now and when I stop liking it I will move on to their detriment …they don’t owe me anything beyond what I paid tmobile for and even then its tmobile that made the promise not google….I like googles products and as long as they keep offering cool stuff I will prolly keep useing it

  • Andrew Vanvlack

    The thing I don’t understand is what are they going to do with the developers phone. Many people (incuding me) rely on a pice of hardware to test apps. I don’t see them using a cdma phone (droid) as the adp2 because its pritty mutch tied to one carrier unlike a gsm phone. Testing thing like a multi touch app is not posible on the computer. I seen in the forms some where that a android enginer was saying there was no need for a new dev phone.

  • Rev. Spaminator

    A lot of speculation going on here. We’ll have to see how this shakes out. I have a G1 and my contract doesn’t renew until next year. So if I’m eating donuts or eclairs, either way Google has a year to show us what is really up.

  • Walter McGrain

    The term “fauxpen source” has been around for years. It wasn’t “invented” in May as described by that link. Lame.

  • Pingback: Les fauxpen source sont parmi nous ou l’open source Canada Dry – Philippe Scoffoni()

  • little jimmy

    Hmmm… afaik, I seem to be syncing the Android 2.0 source from at this moment.

  • mawcs

    First, the operation of Google’s open source project isn’t any different from the open source project of large size. Mozilla Firefox, Eclipse, Red Hat, Ubuntu, Apache (Web Server) and many, many open source projects are run this way with one company making the decisions and the community “contributing.” This model is tried and true for the open source community. Nothing new; and no reason to make a fuss.

    Second, you said in the article, “Other parts of the Android framework are under the Apache License and can remain closed as long as Google likes.” This statement makes absolutely no sense. The Apache license is an open source license. In fact, it is BETTER than the GPL in many ways.

    Taylor, this article demonstrates a major lack of understanding when it comes to open source. Protect your journalistic integrity and talk to some open source experts before writing an article like this.

    If you really want to understand open source, go to

    While you are there, check out

    Get in touch with open source experts and poineers like Eric Raymond, Richard Stallman, Linus Torvalds, et al. Notice how they all have different opinions of what open source is.

    By no means should you ever take the jabberings of bitter open source community members as news. It’s always there and will never go away. So someone is upset with Google’s control and they say “It’s not open source!” Come on, that’s not news. It’s an old argument. People have claimed that about Linux before.

    Here’s an easy definition of “open source.” Ask yourself two questions. “Can I get the source code?” and “Can I make my own?” If the answer is “yes” to both, then it is open source.

  • Jesus Christ

    Basically, because google has, in all their glory and power, decided not to back their relatively new products (I.E. MT3G), I am just not going to buy any more google phones. For the fear that some critical update is going to come out, and google wont care about my phone, because they are finally getting a phone with AT&T or whatever their reason is for not caring. This is a horrible way to do business. I have a mac, and I know that no matter what, they would not let a version of their mac OS that crashes as much as Android 1.6 and force closes as much as Android 1.6 stay out on the market. They would do a free update to their OS, much like iPhone OS 3.0 or 3.1. I dont even expect google to add all the new features. Even though that would be nice. I just want them to fix the reliability issues. I have to restart my phone at least once a day now. It sometimes takes 30 seconds just to get to the dial pad. And once I get to the dial pad, more times then not, I have to force close it. THE DIAL PAD! That is the most basic of phone operations! That should NEVER have to be force closed. Thats just my opinion.
    Am I wrong?

    • http://Website Wello

      Dude, I think your phone is broken..