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Popular Android Competitor Pulls Plug

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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CyanogenMod, which gave Android mobile users more control over their devices, has shut down following commercial friction

CyanogenMod, the Android-based mobile operating system once backed by major investors as an alternative to Google’s own platform, has ceased to exist following an attempt at commercialisation that led to internal divisions.

The open source software, which was based on Google’s releases of is own Android platform, but offered more flexibility and added features, is thought to run on at least 50 million devices, based on the project’s own estimates.

CyanogenMod

Commercialisation drive

A commercialisation drive that began in 2013 attracted big names including Microsoft, Andreessen Horowitz and Tencent, and Cyanogen Inc., the company formed to promote the software, was at one point valued at nearly $1 billion (£810m).

Cyanogen Inc’s aggressive approach proved controversial within the project’s open source developer community, however, while on the commercial side Chinese phone maker OnePlus opted to stop using Cyanogen OS after the company formed a partnership with India’s Micromax.

Former chief executive Kirt McMaster, who stepped down in October, captured headlines with truculent statements such as that the company was “putting a bullet through Google’s head” and would “take Android away from Google”, but open source developers felt that hard line wasn’t in line with the values of the project.

Kondik himself stepped down from Cyanogen Inc in November and on Friday, 23 December, the company announced it was shutting down the infrastructure behind the open source project CyanogenMod by 31 December.

Fork in the road

“The open source project and source code will remain available for anyone who wants to build CyanogenMod personally,” the company said in a two-line statement.

The next day open source developers said they would produce a fork in the CyanogenMod source code and pending patches, a step allowing the project to continue under the name “LineageOS”.

The step was necessary because Cyanogen Inc owns the brand, developers said.

“This fork will return to the grassroots community effort that used to define (CyanogenMod) while maintaining the professional quality and reliability you have come to expect more recently,” they wrote in a blog post.

A statement on a new website using the LineageOS name said the new project would be “a continuation of what CyanogenMod was”.

“This is the definition of open,” they wrote. “A company pulling their support out of an open source project does not mean it has to die.”

The following day, Sunday 25 December, the CyanogenMod.org website where the blog post had been published was no longer available and was still down as of Tuesday morning. The CyanogenMod developers said in a Twitter message the site had been taken offline “with little doubt as a reaction to our blog post yesterday”.

They promised more news this week.

Cyanogen Inc did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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