Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS control nearly 99 percent of mobile operating system, while the likes of Microsoft and BlackBerry tried to challenge but failed miserably in their effort. The significant market share means that consumers usually end up being locked to either Google or Apple’s ecosystem. For those looking for an alternative to these two tech giants, there is a new operating system based on Android.
Gael Duval, creator of Mandrake Linux, the popular early Linux distribution has confirmed that he is working on eelo, an open-source operating system that will be based on Android but won’t use any of the Google services. Duval says with eelo, he plans to win back his privacy. He says eelo will be designed with open-source software in mind, and will allow its users to use online services along with an attractive interface.
Building an operating system on top of Android without using Google services is not a new phenomenon. Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has its own operating system called YunOS based on Android that drops all Google services in favor of local services. Duval believes he can better the offering by making it secure and safe from any services that collect data. Duval says, “In the long run, Apple, Google, Facebook etc. business models are harmful for our economical and social environments.”
He also explains that eelo will be based on existing Android clone LineageOS, a forked version of now dead CyanogenMod. He confirms that eelo will not turn into a business like Cyanogen, and he wants eelo to be ‘for Mum and Dad.’
Duval, a known name in the Linux circuit, says building a Linux-based smartphone operating system isn’t easy. He admits he will not try like Mozilla or Canonical which failed to build a complete Linux-based operating system for the mobile hardware. He adds that Android is a new development platform for him and he is taking help from a full-stack developer. “We have agreed, as a first collaboration, to release a new launcher, new notification system and new control center.”
In a webpage explaining eelo, Duval says eelo is running as a beta, and the real challenge so far has been to remove Google Play Store, Google Play Services and other Google apps. He adds that eelo will rely on privacy-enabled DuckDuckGo and Qwant for search. However, eelo users will also be able to pick their own search engine since Google offers the best search result in most situations.
Duval wants an “eelo store” for safe delivery of apps but will rely on Android program repositories like F-Droid and APKPure at the time of launch. The Google Services will be replaced by MicroG, an open-source implementation of Google’s proprietary Android user space apps and libraries.
While binaries and Google Services are things in the front-end used to acquire data, Duval also has replacement for other invisible methods of tracking including Domain Name System (DNS). By default, eelo will use the Quad 9 DNS, which preserves and blocks access to known malicious websites. Whether eelo will work or end up being another ambitious attempt like Cyanogen needs to be seen, but Duval has opened a Kickstarter page and aims to raise $120,000 for its development.