Wednesday 3 December 2014

Mid-term review - Open Source situation of Sailfish OS

What's opened after 1 year, Jolla? 

A year has passed, and we all know that Jolla has set Open Sourcing of Sailfish OS as their goal already before that time. Let's check where Jolla stands with OSS after a year:

UPDATE, February 3, 2015: Sailfish OS is currently a non-OSS operating system, and earlier mentioned goal towards Open Source is, at this point, missing

Mid-term review - Open Source situation of Sailfish OS

Share and Shout! Your friends might read it.

To begin with, let's clear out the terminology:

  • OSS = Open Source Software, licensed to be used complying with the Open Source Definition — in brief, they allow software to be freely used, modified, and shared. To be approved by the Open Source Initiative (also known as the OSI), a license must go through the Open Source Initiative's license review process. (Note: Avoid mixing with OS = Operating System)
  • FOSS = Free and Open Source Software, meaning all the above and additionally nobody should ask for a price for it. Actually you can always find OSS licenced parts of any software free as well, but it can be also sold. In some forums "Free" is considered as "Freedom", in which case FOSS and OSS are exactly the same.
  • Closed source stands for any code without an Open Source licence. Such code may not be copied, and it's most usually property of a company or an individual. The owner may decide to keep it closed, sell it to others, or attach any licence to the code.
  • Find out more at

Let's begin the mid-term review from the software side inside Jolla phone. 655 packets included to latest Sailfish OS version are divided into sectors below, simply by if they have an OSS licence or not (note: image has a wrong version number, it should be Laadunjärvi):

Out of the listed 655 packets, Sailfish OS includes 120-140 packets without an OSS licence (red/orange parts). Most of these are property of another company but Jolla, for example driver software (Qualcomm), HERE maps (Nokia) or Alien Dalvik (Myriad). Part of these packets misses a licence, in this case being property of the seller (Jolla)

Adding correct licences to all the packages is one issue to work with, but what's more important is that a new OSS licence is attached to only 3 packets (yellow part) during a year. If this goes on like this, it would take 40 years until we see an Open Source Sailfish OS - one of the main goals clearly mentioned here*

*UPDATE: As the page in the link above is currently (February 3rd, 2015) removed from the site content, here's a quote I was referring to as it was written there on December 3rd, 2014:
"Our goal with the Sailfish OS is to develop an open source operating system in co-operation with the community, thus ensuring the development of a best-of-breed operating system."
The page was probably removed during the web page changes on January 30, 2015. After this "facelift" there's no similar info available on the site content, and Sailfish OS is now officially a non-OSS operating system based on Open Source Mer project:
"The core OS is based on Mer Project, an open source, mobile optimised distribution while the UI is proprietary software owned by Jolla. View our open projects in github and welcome to contribute code."
Please visit for possible future updates on this issue, and this post at TJC to comment the facelift

Opening up a bit more...

During this year we've learned one thing - Sailors at Jolla are busy. Instead of monthly updates we've had only 7, added by one opt-in and three hotfixes. The next one was also delayed.

More than waiting for an update, many of us have been waiting for answers. Both Jolla Care and TJC are responding as soon as they can, but some questions are buried for months, even few of the most voted ones.

Earlier, Jolla has also seemed quite careful about sharing negative issues. We all know they exist, we just haven't seen any explanations - until during the last month, which seems to be a step into right direction. Maybe Jolla has learned some openness during the year after all?

Open Source issues were also openly discussed in two Jolla community meetups on IRC. The openness was lifted up on November 25th meeting, continued by additional meeting December 2nd, focusing more on OSS. Present in the latter were also GM and President of OSI (

Discussions between Carsten Munk, Chief Research Engineer at Jolla and Simon Phipps, OSI President and Patrick Masson, GM at OSI were extremely interesting and fruitful. In short, Simon asked about and and actions were decided to take on both by Jolla. A short quote:

  • 15:41:46 <webmink> Stskeeps:  I observe that uncertainty and opacity are the two Dread Killers of community. Stating "some things are closed, but we can't say what, and we can't say why" is certain to harm...
  • 15:42:23 <Stskeeps> webmink: we can say what and we quite often do.. :) but not the why
  • 15:43:21 <webmink> Stskeeps: Not even by broad category, like "do not own copyright", "implements interface covered by NDA" etc?
  • 15:44:49 <Stskeeps> webmink: it's a bees nest sometimes, but i understand the thought there, we really try to explain at least what parts it belongs in and why
  • 15:45:45 <Stskeeps> webmink: part of this is that to fully understand the reasons, or even overview, you need to understand the framework in how we operate as well, which last meeting was a start

Above: Simon, OSI = <webmink> and Carsten, Jolla = <Stskeeps>

Please find out more in the minutes, or if you got really interested, the full log. Please note that this meeting took place after (and due to lack of time) the earlier one: minutes LOG

What more?

Yes, this discussion goes on - it has merely started! You can leave a comment here, or visit for example this TJC post (also linked by Simon during the meeting) to be up to date. I'm expecting the decided actions to make some Jolla's Sailors even more busy for a while, but for a very important matter. Let's give them the time they seem to need and look forward for the results.

  • 16:20:28 <webmink> Remember that changing from proprietary licensing to open source licensing can be expensive; the company has to be sure it has the necessary rights, and gaining that certainty involves paying expensive professionals. So it is uncommon for proprietary code to be made open source at EOL; it has to happen before EOL.
  • 16:20:47 <Stskeeps> yes.. and sometimes it may be that it's 3rd party bits from an ODM
  • 16:20:53 <Stskeeps> which makes it more harder
  • 16:20:58 <webmink> Nokia's actions regarding MeeGo were actually generous...
Special thanks to Thomas Ruecker for excellent hosting of an excellent meeting, and to the guests from OSI who used their time for helping Jolla and our community in the road towards some great goals. Sail On!

Share and Shout! Your friends might read it.

Sources: Mer wiki, piratepad, the two meeting logs (linked above)
Cover image: paniq - / CC-BY-3.0
Chart image: Review Jolla, share for free, mention us only if you want ;)
Published: December 3, 2014 06:30 UTC
Updated: February 3, 2014 20:36 UTC


  1. Your definition of OSS is wrong. You say:

    > Depending on the licence, the usage and sharing rights may vary
    > from only personal use to sharing and even to commercial use

    An open source license always guarantees the freedoms to use, study, improve and share the code, including for commercial purposes.

    Also, please don't distinguish between OSS and FOSS; they are the same thing. All actual open source software (not just open-washed) is free software and all actual free software (not just gratis) is open source. The FSF leads with ethics, the OSI leads with pragmatics, but we both have the same principles.

    1. I visited OSI site and updated the part by the great information provided there. Thank you for noting this!