During a keynote presentation at Google’s IO developer conference last year, Google VP of engineering Vic Gundotra proclaimed that the search giant created Android in order to bring freedom to the masses and avoid a “draconian future” in which one company controlled the mobile industry. Looking past the self-congratulatory rhetoric, Android’s poor track record on openness is becoming harder to ignore.
The company revealed Thursday that it will delay publication of the Android 3.0 source code for the foreseeable future—possibly for months. It’s not clear when (or if) the source code will be made available. The decision puts Android on a path towards a “draconian future” of its own, in which it is controlled by a single vendor—Google.
It really is worth reading all of the way through.
Android, as it presently exists, is *already* controlled by a single vendor, Google. The only reason that Android isn’t completely proprietary is that Google built it on top of a free software kernel and free software libraries. Otherwise, it would be, like Apple’s iOS.
As the Ars Technica article above makes clear, Google doesn’t care about providing timely access to source code… a central tenet of the free software movement. Google is only interested in free software to the extent that it can use it to grow its own empire.
That’s why Google hates the AGPL (Affero General Public License). The AGPL requires that an entity running free software over a network make the source code of that software available; it is identical to the regular GNU General Public License except for this clause.
The AGPL was written to prevent companies like Google from taking free software, making improvements to it, and using the improved software to deliver services using the SAAS business model, but refusing to give back to the community by releasing the source code of the improvements.
Unfortunately, only a small percentage of free software is licensed under the AGPL – although usage has increased since 2007, when the Free Software License released Version 3 of the AGPL. For instance, StatusNet and Diaspora (free software projects that replicate Twitter and Facebook’s functionality in a federated fashion) are both licensed under the AGPL.