Vision Mobile has published a report on what it calls the Open Governance Index. The theory is that if you want to measure the extent to which an open source project is really open, you should look at its governance, rather than focusing on the license under which code is released:
The governance model used by an open source project encapsulates all the hard questions about a project. Who decides on the project roadmap? How transparent are the decision-making processes? Can anyone follow the discussions and meetings taking place in the community? Can anyone create derivatives based on the project? What compliance requirements are there for creating derivative handsets or applications, and how are these requirements enforced? Governance determines who has influence and control over the project or platform – beyond what is legally required in the open source license.
The 45-page report is free to download, and part-funded by the European Union Seventh Framework Program. It is a good read, covering 8 open source projects, including the now-abandoned Symbian Foundation. Here is the result:
|Open Governance Index (%open)
The percentages are derived by analysing four aspects of each project.
- Access covers availability of source code and transparency of decisions.
- Development refers to the transparency of contributions and acceptance processes.
- Derivatives covers constraints on use of the project, such as trademarks and distribution channels.
- Community structure looks at project membership and its hierarchy.
What is wrong with Android? I am not sure how the researchers get to 23%, but it scores badly in all four categories. The report observes that the code to the latest “Honeycomb” version of Android has not been published. It also has this to say about the Open Handset Alliance:
When launched, the Open Handset Alliance served the purpose of a public industry endorsement for
Android. Today, however, the OHA serves little purpose besides a stamp of approval for OHA
members; there is no formal legal entity, no communication processes for members nor frequent
By contrast, Eclipse and Linux are shining lights. MeeGo and Mozilla are also praised, thought the report does mention Mozilla’s “Benevolent dictators”:
In the case of conflicts and disputes, these are judged by one of two Mozilla “benevolent dictators” – Brendan Eich for technical disputes and Mitchell Baker for non-technical disputes.
Qt comes out OK but has a lower score because of Nokia’s control over decision making, though it sounds like this was written before Nokia’s Windows Mobile revolution.
WebKit scores well though the report notes that most developers work for Apple or Google and that there is:
Little transparency regarding how decisions are made, and no public information provided on this
Bearing that in mind, it seems odd to me that WebKit comes above Mozilla, but I doubt the percentages should be taken too seriously.
It is good to see a report that looks carefully at what it really means to be open, and the focus on governance makes sense.