In light of the $5 billion EU antitrust ruling against Google this week, we started noticing a certain classic Ars story circulating around social media. Google’s methods of controlling the open source Android code and discouraging Android forks is exactly the kind of behavior the EU has a problem with, and many of the techniques outlined in this 2013 article are still in use today.
The idea of a sequel to this piece has come up a few times, but Google’s Android strategy of an open source base paired with key proprietary apps and services hasn’t really changed in the last five or so years. There have been updates to Google’s proprietary apps so that they look different from the screenshots in this article, but the base strategy outlined here is still very relevant. So in light of the latest EU development, we’re resurfacing this story for the weekend. It first ran on October 20, 2013 and appears largely unchanged — but we did toss in a few “In 2018” updates anywhere they felt particularly relevant.
This is a great read that demonstrates what a menacing monopoly Google is. Android, at least in the form it ships in to most people, is not a “free”, “libre”, or “open source” operating system. It is a mostly proprietary OS with some open source components. That ultimately makes it no different and no better than other proprietary mobile platforms that also utilize some free software for certain components like their web browsers.