Since Steve turned Apple's earning report into a rant against everyone and everything Google, followed by Andy's sniper-style snarky response on Twitter, you can't shake a stick without hitting someone involved in the industry sharing their views on what is and isn't open.  (Hey, look! Here are ours!) Joe Hewitt, of Mozilla and Facebook fame, is no exception.  On Tuesday he, too, had his five-minute meltdown via Twitter, bashing Google for its definition of open compared to his, with remarks like "Point I am trying to make is, Rubin bickering with Jobs is a farce, because both refuse to share the one thing that matters: control."  

Joe has taken the opportunity to make his views clearer, and in a much more tame fashion on his blog.  He makes some really valid points, and you should read it.  If you're any type of FOSS (Free Open Source Software) supporter or detractor, you should definitely read it.  I read it, and can't argue his points too much.  One of our favorite Googlers, Tim Bray, read it, and according to Tim "Joe Hewitt is OK by me."  Don't disagree with Tim there, either.  The one question that isn't answered -- is there really a Facebook Android phone in the works, and did that influence Joe Hewitt to clarify his opinion? Tinfoil hats on, everybody! [Joe Hewitt via @timbray]


Reader comments

Joe Hewitt, open source software, and the benefit of a good night's sleep


Sorry but gotta disagree. And after following a few links I see that I'm not alone. And it has nothing to do with me being a fan of Android and everything to do with me being a fan of FOSS.

Are we going to use the actual definitions of open source (OSI) or are we going to go with peoples personal philosophies? I don't see anything about who can commit to projects or whether the code has to be public while under development in the definitions. The whole point is that the code is distributed along with the end product so that you get full control of what you purchase or retrieve for free just like you do with most anything else you purchase. It eliminates artificial lock-in and barriers. It allows you to customize to fit your needs (though some have even begin to rail against that...see AGPL...if you want to know I can rant on that too)

Now yes it is also used as a means to get a community going around your platform where many people can contribute and push the platform along further. But nothing about open source says that you HAVE to allow outside contributions. If you have the horses to go it alone and THEN release all of that hard work for free you are certainly welcome to do so. And again theres nothing about open source that says you HAVE to let anyone see the code as it develops. As one commenter said...Android is open source...not crowd sourced. And lets be real. You have other companies depending on being able to bring these features to market without giving away the details. Without that they may very well be beat to market time and time again and Android would not be where it is.

So as Hewitt calls BS on Android I call BS on him and everyone else that wants to judge others by their own philosophies and development practices. If Android and iOS are no different then show me the iOS code. Where is the Cyanogen of the iPhone world building from source? As a fan of FOSS I really dislike when purists do this. If its not up to their extended standards then its not open. If somebody figures a way to make money off of it then its not open. If someone uses a license for its intended purpose and makes internal mods that they don't redistribute (because they don't actually distribute the software) they are abusing open source (though thats supposed to be one of the major pros) and come up with something like the AGPL. As usual people talk about freedom but fail to remember that freedom means people are free to do something you don't like as well.

Do understand they are what they are. We consumers will always want it free, them the developers always want you to pay for their effort.

There is no such thing as free in this greed-ridden world

You have TOTALLY misunderstood the discussion.

Nobody is complaining about paying for the operating systems.
Its not a money argument.

Woohoo! Was hoping to get some good comments.

Android follows the open source licenses they use to the letter. All the crapola yesterday saying otherwise just showed that some people are better off staying quiet ;)

Is Android "free and open" like many other GNU products? Nope. Does Joe (who for any faults, we have to admit is still worth listening to) have the right to bitch that he would like Android to have a completely open code tree ala Mozilla? Yes. That would be so cool, and I think we all agree we would love to be building AOSP nightlies from the 2.XX codebase. But it's not, and that doesn't make it any less FOSS than any of his examples, and I'm glad to see he has reversed or clarified his thoughts and admitted as such.

I absolutely agree with Joe when he says that many GNU projects are more "open and free" than the current Android model. But it also sucks when you're trying to build a product to release to the public that was coded that way. Look at Firefox or Chrome (Joe's examples, not mine) and compare the changelogs and release cycles vs. any FOSS that doesn't let the community build the end product. I don't want John Q Public with a world's worth of experience writing SCSI drivers for XXX thinking he can improve something that he's clueless about. That only means shoddy code will slip through, or someone will have to spend time weeding it out instead of being more productive. It's my phone for gods sakes. It NEEDS to work as intended

As long as Joe makes it clear that what he wants is just his opinion, as opposed to his (and everyone's) silly tirades yesterday, I'm cool with it.

Yes. Thank you. Joe has done a ton of great work but his word is not law and working at a company like Facebook takes his credibility and opinions on "open source" down quite a few notches.

damn right! Nothing faster for a quick edit or (in this case) a quick look at any text file :p I actually have "nano -w" and "sudo nano -w" aliased in my .bashrc :D

LOL nerd off... and rightly so by using that primative nano client. :P I prefer vi!

Whatever you say, Android has alot of open source, read up on Cyanogenmod.