Android ranked the most "closed" open source project: here's why

Android ranked the most
Open source or proprietary? That question has divided users from the earlier days of computing, but in mobile it has been reinvigorated by none other than Android. 

Google’s platform is now the most popular mobile OS in the world, but many point out that it does not fit the open source paradigm 100%. Vision Mobile has taken on the task to measure the “true openness” of open source projects. Its report focused on 8 candidates: Android, MeeGo, Symbian, WebKit, Mozilla, Eclipse, Qt and Linux.

To accurately measure the projects, it used what it calls an Open Governance index. The index is based on four pillars - Access, Development, Derivatives, Community. As you’ve already seen in the headline, Android was the overall “winner” for most closed open source project. Why?

Measuring how open an open source project is starts with the source code: it should be freely available to the public. Here’s where Google’s platform took the first beating: “Android is the only mainstream mobile open source project that does not freely provide source code access to all developers at the same time,” the report concludes.

The second criteria, development, shows whether it’s easy or not to identify who contributes to the project. Here Qt and WebKit ranked worst as they don’t allow you to see who contributes and this influences the project.

Now, the third criteria, derivatives, is very interesting because it measures whether trademarks are used to control how the project is distributed or not. True open source projects in that regard are Eclipe, Linux, Mozilla, Qt and WebKit, all of which allow you to freely distribute the code and use the project trademark. Android in contrast comes with Android Market which is only available after signing a commercial agreement with Google.

Finally, the community criterion estimates how the community is managed - in a flat or a tiered structure. Eclipse and Mozilla are the ones offering tiered rights.

Combine all of this, and you arrive at the sad result of Android scoring only 23% on the Open Governance Index. It seems clear that Android is more strictly governed than the others, but is that a bad or a good thing, and why? Could Google’s tighter control actually bring coherence? Check out the infographic on the right and chime in with your opinions in the comments below.




1. bloodline

Posts: 706; Member since: Dec 01, 2011

if it was 100% it would be out of control, Google’s tighter control does bring coherence

15. ivanprskalo

Posts: 124; Member since: Dec 09, 2010

ASK the PEOPLE. I am continuously asking people about user experience on different OS-es, brands, sort of doing my own little research, and trough last 5-6 years. What I can notice that people complaining about iOS is restrictive about everything they trying to put on their phone, and iOS is constantly monitoring flow of everything on phone. People are saying: "It's like they (Apple) still own my phone!" Another often complain about iOS is: "They trying only to make money out of me, it's like I'm just sack with money to them..." With Android is different, people feeling generally that google allows more freedom to end users. Little bid of everything for everyone, everything is supported, community responds well to potential flaws of OS... WP7 has I'm afraid negative reactions in the same way like iOS has.. closeness, control of everything, to many Metro UI is too simple, like Microsoft thinks people are too stupid to use as many options as modern smartphone has... and no one like when he or she is considered as stupid...

18. networkdood

Posts: 6330; Member since: Mar 31, 2010

Which is why I have an Android phone - I can do anything to the phone that I damn well please, even if the carrier/manufacturer tries to stop me.

23. Lucas777

Posts: 2137; Member since: Jan 06, 2011

so have u actually tested a wp7 or are u just saying that? because the metro ui is far from simple… it flows from one app to the other and u often dont even know where you are.. but that is the beauty of metro.. and it looks great while doing it.. no it doesnt offer every little customization possible but it is not trying to.. neither is the iphone.. but sticking to wp, what super smart things does microsoft not include that arent os-specific? and what exactly makes people feel stupid when using the glorious wp?

2. messiah

Posts: 438; Member since: Feb 19, 2010

only 23% open source?? well, doesn't that mean that they are not copying a true open source system like Lynux, as claimed? nor with that 23% are they effectively stealing patents from ios. so... case closed, everyone can take a step away from the lawsuits on google for a bit now

3. Gemmol

Posts: 793; Member since: Nov 09, 2011

Damn, I thought my android phone was open, Google lie to me and the fandroids, but its okay, I still like my phone, but yall should not be lying to me, in order for me to join Android

5. Sniggly

Posts: 7305; Member since: Dec 05, 2009

Um. What?

7. TechDroid

Posts: 37; Member since: Jun 14, 2011

Android is twenty billion times more open than iOS and WP put together

16. kshell1

Posts: 1143; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

it may only be 23% but it seems like at least 60% considering you can change launchers themes etc etc he!! bootanimations and kernels and roms if you root -__-

4. Bluesky02

Posts: 1439; Member since: Dec 05, 2011

Android is the most successful Linux Distro out there

6. ardent1

Posts: 2000; Member since: Apr 16, 2011

The late Steve Jobs was right (from 10/18/2010 conference call): "Google loves to characterize Android as open, and iOS and iPhone as closed. We find this a bit disingenuous and clouding the real difference between our two approaches. The first thing most of us think about when we hear the work open is Windows which is available on a variety of devices. Unlike Windows, however, where most pc's have the same user interface and run the same app, Android is very fragmented. Many Android OEMs, including the two largest, HTC and Motorola install proprietary user interfaces to differentiate themselves from the commodity Android experience. The users will have to figure it all out. Compare this with iPhone, where every handset works the same. Twitter client, Twitter Deck, recently launched their app for Android. They reported that they had to contend with more than 100 different versions of Android software on 244 different handsets. The multiple hardware and software iterations present developers with a daunting challenge. Many Android apps work only on selected Android handsets running selected Android versions. And this is for handsets that have been shipped less than 12 months ago. Compare this with iPhone, where there are two versions of the software, the current and the most recent predecessor to test against." Due to its fragmented approach, the Android OS has never been truly open. When you have customers that can't upgrade to the latest Android OS, that's a BIG PROBLEM. Android users always harp about their ability to customize their handset but are ALWAYS SILENT when asked about upgrading (as in CUSTOMIZING) to the latest and greatest android OS -- I would love to try out Android os 4.0, but I am not allowed to CUSTOMIZE my handset without potential legal actions by the carrier.

8. TechDroid

Posts: 37; Member since: Jun 14, 2011

It's clear that Steve Jobs never heard about ROMs

10. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

good morning dr. negative. I see you have had your "mountain out of a mole hill" cereal this morning. Chasing it with a side of green troll tea? geesh.

21. faisal8708

Posts: 104; Member since: Nov 15, 2011

Fandroids will laugh but will never answer why their phones are not running ICS? ohh you can run it by using ROM blah blah blah And they will call others FANBOYS and wht not and will say oh ICS will destroy iPhone and it is the best thing tht has ever happened in the history of cell phone technology and it has eliminated the lag issues of Android but the fact remains they havnt even used it yet now who is a FANBOY About the updates they will say its the OEMs who has to do blah blah blah etc etc etc and wht not but they will never answer how the XDA developers are releasing ICS alphas? do they hav more resources than the OEMs. The fact remains they will start getting updates in march or april and they will realize tht its another sh!t from google and nearly the same time google will announce another Android version and they will go wet on tht and tht will become the best thing ever happened and they will become wet on tht. So in short the cycle continues

9. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

people scream that Google needs tighter controls, and at the same time i bet this thread gets flooded with people mad at google for not being more open.. What do you want? lol

11. taz89

Posts: 2014; Member since: May 03, 2011 cant argue its not open then say it need to have tighter controls..

13. Trainer

Posts: 23; Member since: Nov 03, 2011

You cannot appease the vocal minority, only the quiet masses. Google seems to be keeping the masses pretty happy. Back to the article, Android is tricky to classify. The source for Android itself is completely open. Easily found on the internet, and you yourself can download and adjust it all you wish. Where android "fails" is in GAPPs and OEM Android skins. Google apps (GAPPs) are not open sourced, nor should they have to be. It is Google's software. They use it to leverage OEMs to not pollute Android with craptastic skins or broken versions of Android. OEMs can still do what they want, but they may not receive access to the Market and GAPPs. OEMs are responsible for a lot of the closed feeling. They don't always release the source code for their skins in a timely manner. And as we all know, they can take forever updating to the new version of Android. They also severely delay the release of drivers into open source, which drives the modding/hacking community crazy! Cyanogen will rant on this. Not to mention the absurdity of locking, or worse yet encrypting bootloaders!

14. ZEUS.the.thunder.god unregistered


19. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

dead.. frikkin.. on. good stuff.

12. ZEUS.the.thunder.god unregistered

anyone who thinks that android is not open source, is a POS.

17. hepresearch unregistered

Having developed for Linux, WebKit, Qt, and Symbian before, I always found Android to be too prohibitive to really do what I wanted with it. I did not want to sign a commercial agreement because my aim was to make non-commercial scientific sensor package management products, and I could not sign a commercial agreement and still abide by my security protocol agreement. Also, there was no way to get access to all necessary parts of the source code, at that time, to do what needed to be done within the required parameters... granted, I felt that it could still be done a different way, but the prior requirements would have to be ignored. Now that Symbian and Qt are essentially done as a pair, I really do not have anything left but Linux, and I am getting tired of that. If you have no other constraints, Android can still be harnessed to do just about anything. But, to do it right, for some purposes, is now impossible... and thus I am essentially finished as a mobile developer. I find this fact to be highly unfortunate.

20. ZEUS.the.thunder.god unregistered

i understand what you are saying and i thumbed you up lol but not every user is a developer. but you stopped devolping thats sad. its always good if anyone, who has the ability, can contribute something good.

22. hepresearch unregistered

Yeah, it is sort of sad. My "excuse" is that I got divorced, poor, unemployed, sick, old, and burned out all in the same two-year span. Technically, I cannot be re-hired in my prior field of choice until 2019, and I cannot be hired in my ultimate chosen field until I have my Ph.D., my publishing quota, and two years of residency. In order to get a Ph.D., I have to finish my bachelors degree first, as well. At the moment, federal educational loan rules preclude me from getting financial aid to go back to PSU. So, I am sort of stuck between a rock and a hard place...

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