VisionMobile, a London-based market analysis and strategy firm, published an intruiging report detailing just how open different open source platforms really are. Saying that Android didn't perform too well is an understament: the Android OS came last way behind the rest of the pack in every respect. As much as we all like to brag about how Android is an open-source project, the VisionMobile study reveals a more nuanced reality.
For the purposes of this report, the people over at VisionMobile picked eight very different open source projects: Mozilla, Android, Qt, Symbian, MeeGo, WebKit, Linux and Eclipse. All of these pieces of software were ranked based on an Open Governance Index made of several key components: access, development, derivatives and community. In terms of access, the study looked at how transparent and readily available source codes were to the public. As far as the development was concerned, they attempted to quantify how influential the role of developers was within the development process. The freedom of developers to play around with the code and use it for their own purposes was part of the derivative rubric. And finally, each software's community was put under the microscope to look for any discrimination or inequality between developers. Here are how the results break down:
What may appear to be open-source on the surface is actually tightly controlled on the inside as is the case with Android. When compared to true open-source software like Linux, Android appears to be more like a controlled environment under constant surveillance. As much as it must sadden developers to see Android score so badly, the results can hardly be called a surprise. After all, Android isn't just a group of freelance developers and programers getting together for some fun. It's a serious big-bucks endevour with one of the world's largest companies behind it. Of course, Android can't compare to the likes of MeeGo and WebKit, but they aren't the ones selling their software on millions of devices now are they? The lesson to be learned from this report is: with commercial success comes less transparency and freedom. That's just how the earth spins these days. And as much as people may be dissapointed with Android's lacked of openess, it's still lightyears more open than Apple - an organization almost as closed and secretive as North Korea.