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InfoQ Homepage News Google Opens Fuchsia to Public Contributions

Google Opens Fuchsia to Public Contributions

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Four years after open sourcing Fuchsia, its new capability-based operating system aimed at IoT and mobile, Google has announced the project will now accept contributions from the public.

Starting today, we are expanding Fuchsia's open source model to make it easier for the public to engage with the project. [...] As an open source effort, we welcome high-quality, well-tested contributions from all.

Fuchsia governance model makes it clear that Google remains solidly in control of platform decisions related to the new operating system. Its coherency and unifying vision are provided by a very small group of Googlers that are appointed by the project governing authority.

This is similar to how other important open source projects initiated by Google operate, including Go and Chromium, and has led to some skeptical views expressed by Hacker News readers. In particular, there is a perception that contributors working for Google enjoy more control than external contributors.

This appears to be related to Google not really needing external contributors to run an open source project for another commenter, which creates a completely different situation to that of other open source projects that quickly lose their ties to the companies that initiated them. An example in case is Go modules proposal, which came by a Google engineer and was quickly adopted by the Go team, although a committee had been previously created to work on a design for a Go packaging system.

Another reader points out that while it is true that this case could have been handled better, the possibility that a proposal is rejected has affected Google engineers as well, for example, with modules, generics, and error handling.

Since it became publicly known when its repo appeared on GitHub and Google Source without any official announcement, Fuchsia has had an aura of mystery around it. At some point, it was speculated Fuchsia could be Google's attempt to replace Android while also avoiding the issues that plagued it, such as fragmentation and loss of control on updates. Google SVP of Android, Chrome/OS, and Play Hiroshi Lockheimer recently described it as an experiment around new concepts for operating systems in 2019.

In fact, Fuchsia is based on a new kernel, called Zircon, that makes away with a number of assumptions which are commonplace in many mainstream OSes, such as the use of UNIX-like signals for low-level IPC and files as a representation of system resources. Instead, Fuchsia favours an event-driven programming model and the use of objects.

Still the prospects for what Fuchsia is going to be are quite open. It does not help that Fuchsia is still very much a work in progress that, according to Google, cannot be used to create products, yet. This lack of definition has also led some to believe Fuchsia is a "principal engineer retention project", hypothesis which has been clearly dismissed by Google principal engineer Adam Barth, who is also member of the new Fuchsia governing council.

If you want to start contributing to the project, a good place to start is the issue tracker and the mailing lists for project discussions. Also check out requirements to become a member and get full write access.

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