There is no end to the number of attempts to push a Google-free Android OS to free users from data and privacy invasion. Those attempts keep failing. The latest attempt is Eelo. What is it doing differently and how good are its chances of success?
Let me say this upfront, if I got $1,000 for each time there has been a new initiative to push a Google-free Android fork, I would be rich by now. It is the utopian dream of those of us who understand the implications of the privacy-invading nature of Android OS as it currently is.
Yet, not one of those initiatives has succeeded till date. CyanogenMod perhaps had the biggest chance, and yet it failed. Or perhaps it was Nokia, with their Microsoft-centric Nokia X platform. That failed too.
Eelo For Freedom and Privacy
Now, from the ashes of CyanogenMod has risen Eelo, but with the same battle cry – “Pry Android OS away from Google’s intrusive ways!”
Eelo is being forked from LineageOS, which was forked from CyanogenMod. The new platform will have a new, distinct user interface (UI) of its own different from stock Android and LineageOS, and it will offer basic web services that replace those of Google and so free users from personal data spying and advertising.
The Google services that will be replaced with open source alternatives in Eelo include: Search, Maps, Calendar, Mail, Web Browser, AI Assistant, Social, Office and App Store. The goal is a completely Google-free Android OS.
Eelo also wants to offer software updates for 3 years or more for devices.
The question is, What makes the Eelo project different this time? Why should anyone believe that it even stands a chance?
The Man Behind Eelo
The man behind Eelo is someone who is not new to rebellion against digital intrusion of privacy. Gaël Duval is the software engineer behind Mandrake-Linux, which in 1998 was the first Linux distribution to address ease of use. Mandrake was around 7 years before Ubuntu OS.
I came out about my decision to leave Apple and Google. It’s a lifestyle choice to escape the tech giants that make me a product by privatizing my personal data .And I don’t like what Apple is doing now, Apple’s attitude, new iPhone and their price… It’s also an act of freedom for my children and all the people who will care: I want them to have a choice, and also a clear and informed view on how their choices can impact their life and their economical ecosystem as well. That’s what eelo is all about: offering a viable and attractive alternative to users for their digital life.
Mandrake was revolutionary, but then it never achieved mainstream use as a PC operating system. Can Gaël pull it off with Eelo on mobile this time? Only time will tell.
But Gail himself admits that this will be a hard and long journey – which is a good thing. Unlike what we saw with Cyanogen, there is no loud bragging and hype about this; just a calculated plans of what needs to be done.
Long Road Ahead To A Google-free Android OS
Gael has launched a KickStarter campaign to raise funds to ‘bootstrap the project and pay some developers for a few months to reach a first “privacy-enabled” and viable eelo product that users will be able to install or order on quantity-limited pre-installed Eelo smartphones’.
The Eelo project is going to be a long road to freedom. You can head over to the Lockstarter project page to read more and to pitch in.