Rehan HoodaDec 26, 2016 18:19:13 IST
Cyanogen Inc (Cyngn) dropped a bomb on Android Open Source Community during the weekend by announcing that CyanogenMod (CM) is shutting down, along with all its services. This move was anticipated by the CM community after Steve Kondik left Cyngn, who pointed out the problems that the community would face.
CM is the community driven effort by developers to support old devices with the latest versions of Android. This effort is largely non-profit, developed by people in their free time. In contrast, Cyngn is a corporate entity responsible for maintaining the backend of CM and contribute code to the core CM code-base. Cyngn is also responsible for developing CyngnOS, the Android-based operating system that runs on smartphones out of the box.
Rebranding the CM into something different, like Lineage, would be the easiest way around the potential troubles of carrying forward with the name that Cyngn owns. But, despite that nobody expect this pull out around the holiday season.
@PaulOBrien I'm actually happy to rebrand. Never really liked the personal association and I think a fresh start is in order.
— cyanogen (@cyanogen) December 3, 2016
Initially, the date to stop the nightlies, a version of the code released every night, was set to be 31 December 2016, with the first announcement of the shutdown coming on 23 December. The company only gave a notice of roughly one week before the shutdown of such a large project. The CM team put out a post on its website clearing the situation and further announcing that CM will be rebranded into Lineage leaving behind the stuff that CM was. The CM team was already ready with the backup as they had shifted the open source code of Lineage to Github that work has continued on most devices.
UPDATE: As of this morning we have lost DNS and Gerrit is now offline - with little doubt as a reaction to our blog post yesterday. Goodbye
— CyanogenMod (@CyanogenMod) December 25, 2016
Cyngn have behaved like sore losers by shutting down the CM website and the corresponding Gerrit before the promised date of 31 December. Gerrit is an free online team code collaboration software where developers can work on software projects in real-time. CM updated everyone with updates to the matter using the Twitter account pointing out that they have lost access to the site DNS and Gerrit. Losing access to site DNS means that users can no longer access the website.
After all the past mess ups by Cyngn, we expected things to turn out differently, but all these actions point out at a much deeper issue with people running Cyngn Inc.
To clarify the difference between both, CM is one of the most popular and largest custom community initiatives in the world. The forked-OS; a tweaked mobile operating system from Android Open Source Project (AOSP) started as a community effort to make an OS that would let people do what device manufacturers don't want them to do. The smartphone makers would often lock capabilities in the OS to stop users from using them without any particular reason.
CM was born out of the need to push the limits of one's device, find ways to implement features that were not given by the manufacturers. Most of these tweaks or functionalities, like the ability to tether your smartphone, underclock or overclock your chipset, increase battery life, add device specific functions and tweaks like a floating navigation bar were some of the features that were not bundled with old Android devices. In fact, the floating navigation bar remains one thing that is not available in Android on any device even today.
As the popularity of the forked OS grew, the number of users demanding the OS for their smartphones grew across manufacturers and regions. Independent developers took the responsibility of maintaining devices, collecting feedback from users and changing and tweaking the code till the builds were perfect.
The increasing number of devices and servers required money, so the company started selling merchandise and ran on donations. Soon after, the CM team started making virtualized servers to sell them to other companies for their specific needs as reported by AndroidAuthority. This helped the community generate money by itself.
As a natural evolution to the community-based CM, the core members of the team decided to make it as an independent company that would offer the OS to device manufacturers to load on their devices out of the box as a decent third party alternative to Google's offering. The plan was great in theory, but CEO Kirt McMaster's overenthusiastic and inflated statements made things difficult for the startup.
The most hyped statement that McMaster ended up saying was that the OS would “put a bullet through the head” of Google's Android. Controversies and inconsistencies with different companies in the "exclusive" rights early on make it difficult for the company to gain any confidence. Attempts at making sure that more and more device manufacturers adopt the OS did not work out after the deal with OnePlus fell apart.
These actions further lead to laying off employees working with the company in July this year and a plan to pivot to a new "Modular OS", which, frankly, does not make sense despite going through the post multiple times because of the work needed to change the underlying architecture of Android. The company still has not clarified what the "Modular OS" means. Will it be the ultimate, customisable operating system where you can add and remove features? Is it something where the company will add mods to the existing system?
the definition of open: "mkdir android ; cd android ; repo init -u git://android.git.kernel.org/platform/manifest.git ; repo sync ; make"
— Andy Rubin (@Arubin) October 19, 2010
It was these missteps that lead to the closure of CM, something that was a God-send for independent developers and their Android Forks. Most independent and minor developers took the source code from the CM website and made different CM-based Android forks for smaller and loyal device specific groups. These groups usually revolved around devices that were not popular and had a significantly much less market share.
The move to shut down CM and the website earlier than planned was a major attack (or rather sabotage) on the 'Openness of the operating system. "Open" architecture is the main strength of the entire community as there are no limits to what you can do. Android itself was conceptualised on the principal of something where you can do anything that you so desire to do by taking the building blocks of the software.
Android as a whole gained popularity as more and more 'geeks' started using the system in ways that were not possible in iOS. CM was like a gust of fresh wind on the face in the heat of June summer as the OS was wildly different to the closed environment that Google and other device manufacturers were pushing Android to. You could change interface, have root access baked in the system and easily expand capabilities of the system by installed things like Xposed framework without the need to install a custom recovery.
With the plans to rebrand CM as LineageOS, a new fork that is driven by the same principals of CM, the core group will go under a regrouping effort to run the brand in a better way. This may take time and prove a challenge to the community as it will need to figure out a way to make money. The group may have to return to their roots where the operation, including infrastructure, is dependent on the user and community donations. The current CM users will need to flash the LineageOS builds whenever they are out to get the latest fix of Custom ROM features.
Everyone who enjoyed using CM, along with developers of the project, need to pitch in for the Open Source community to stand back on its legs. Even though this move by Cyngn will decrease the number of devices officially supported by LineageOS, in time, it will grow back.
Last but not the least, the new group does need funding to run the infrastructure if it plans to expand back to the number of devices last supported by CM and newer devices. Companies associated with Android in addition to the ones that helped Cyngn secure $80 million funding last year need to step in to help the Open Source community get going.
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