July 30, 2014

Crowdfunding Android Firmware Development?

Android aficionados have a laundry list of things they would like to see added to Android proper. Some of these are being addressed in the so-called “cupcake” development path, but others are not. This begs the question: how are we going to get these things built?

Some may say that the core Android team should implement them. That’s all fine and well, but there are hundreds, if not thousands, of things that could be built. The core Android team is only so big — it will take years upon years to tackle just the items that have been discussed, from better development tools to apps running off of SD cards to just improving some of the core applications. And it is fairly obvious that the list of things that could be done will just keep growing.

With open source, of course, some people will elect to contribute to the project on their own, or via their employer. This will certainly help expand Android’s capabilities. However, such third-party developers will be interested in scratching their itches, which may or may not line up with the itches that a broader swath of people might be interested in.

Of course, some people might contribute to Android if they were paid to do so.

For example, in 2008, Gregory Brown served as the Ruby Mendicant, where he raised funds to allow him to develop Prawn, an improved PDF generation library for Ruby. Funds came from a mix of individuals and firms, interested in his project and, perhaps, in this concept of “crowdfunding” some open source development.

Similarly, projects like FCKEditor have used services like Fundable to raise money either for general development efforts or for specific items (e.g., hardware needed for testing a port).

The question is: can we do the same thing for Android firmware improvements? Are there firmware engineers out there who would like to contribute to Android but cannot for financial reasons, and are there people in Android-land who would be willing to contribute money — large or small — to help fund specific projects that you find interesting?

I am interested in your feedback. Depending on the level of interest, I may try to set up what amounts to a match-making service, to connect developers, projects, and contributors. So, post your thoughts in the comments, or contact me off-post at mmurphy at commonsware /dot/ com.