Android Not Open: No XMPP, No Source, No SDK For Some

Android is the new highly-anticipated “open source” mobile platform that is currently under development at Google. There are a high expectations of Android as the first viable open source based mobile platform and a viable competitor to the dominance of Symbian, Microsoft and now Apple. Android is based on Linux and developers can write applications in managed code that use the Google Android SDK, which is developed in Java.

Initially with the Android SDK, there were three ways that a developer could communicate with other services or devices. The first was through text messaging with SMS (or MMS), with HTTP (or the secure variant) or with XMPP, the open messaging protocol. This list has since been struck down to two and a half options, with the XMPP implementation with Android being replaced with a more generic GTalk client library. This means that all real-time communication on Android not using SMS or HTTP must pass through the Gtalk servers.

The initial XMPP implementation was provided via the Smack library, an XMPP implementation developed by Jive Software. Developers started complaining back in January of this year that the implementation had been changed, and that it wasn’t adequate for implementing messaging services on Android. Google has since responded and the official line now is that a more specific library for GTalk is more than adequate, and they also claim that full XMPP isn’t very good for mobile anyway.

Android started as an idealistic open source platform, with a large number of hardware manufacturers lined up supporting it. It is now becoming just a Google platform for mobile, as forcing Gtalk on developers has a chain effect of enforcing Google ID’s on users and all communication to pass through Google servers. Developers are becoming increasingly frustrated by first denying Android SDK updates to some and now by closing up and deciding what can and can’t be done on the platform. Instead of being an open platform, they seem to want to funnel everything through Google services.

As one commentor on the developer thread said, what is next? GHTTP, GSMS etc? Google sucked up credibility by claiming to be the open platform alternative for mobile, but they are burning that credibility up at a fantastic rate with the decisions they are making.