May 6, 2013
One of the beautiful things about Android is how open it is for developers. It’s possible for anyone to make an app and put it out there to the world. One may say that the second part is true as well, but this has been difficult thanks to the regulations of the popular distribution mechanisms. However, there remains one big philosophical difference between the two platforms: Android allows unapproved software to live, Apple does not.
The thing that reminded me of this was learning of the existence of a store called F-Droid. Does the world need another app store? Probably not in most cases, but this store’s hook is interesting: it’s all free and open source software. There’s a wide variety of apps, many of which are on popular stores like Google Play as well, but their featuring here is in support of a greater mission. The store has limited regulations, largely regarding the open source nature of projects and the privacy of the data that apps should use.
Is this store going to change the world? No, and it doesn’t have to. It just has to exist as a way of showing that apps that believe in the free distribution of software can exist on a platform built on those principles. Google may have their own restrictions and regulations for Google Play, some of which are solely self-serving, but ultimately, their decisions are always tinged with the ultimate reminder that “just because we reject something, doesn’t mean it can’t exist.”
This is the thing that has always annoyed me about Apple’s policies. They take many steps to remove apps that they disapprove of either due to silly policy reasons, or even due to outright censorship. Now, when Google rejects an app, it’s not the end. On Apple, it very much is so. Jailbreaking is not an acceptable alternative when Apple goes to such lengths to shut it down. The culture has also led to that scene to be as much about going against what Apple wants rather than just as a way to openly distribute software in alternative ways.
Such is the thing that annoys me about iOS. Apple’s OS is so patently against openness that it gives me pause. It’s all in the name of making the OS work in the way Apple wants, but surely there has to be a balance between that and having a platform that ultimately serves a greater good? Android’s openness, part of its very nature, means that it will likely be the OS, or at least spearheading a greater Linux movement, to be part of many different technologies. Our appliances, wearable technologies, people can make them smart with free software and while Google’s track record is not perfect in this respect it’s light years ahead of what Apple does and continues to do. Apple is out to make Apple and their products better. Google is looking to do that as well, but even as just a byproduct of their mission with Android, they’re promoting something greater.