Google may already have the world’s most widely used operating system in the form of Android, but they don’t believe that this is the operating system that will carry them into the future. As such the tech giant has spent the past four years hard at work on a new OS called Fuchsia.
What makes Fuchsia such a big difference for the company is that unlike Android, it is not based on the Linux kernel. Instead, Fuchsia uses a microkernel, Zircon, which offers a lot less basic inherent features, making it potentially more performant, taking up a smaller footprint, and essentially allowing Google to have more of a say in how the overall operating system will function in its entirety. However, despite all this, it’s still not clear why Google feels the need to deviate from Linux or exactly where they feel Fuchsia will make the most impact, despite the project being developed through open source repositories.
Google has previously tested Fuchsia on smart speakers, indicating that perhaps Google sees it as a smaller OS for many other IoT devices but has yet to actually release any hardware powered by the operating system. Indeed, in Google’s own words the operating system is not so much a replacement for any particular platform, but possibly a way of reimagining the whole idea of operating systems, to begin with, as they shared with The Verge back in 2019:
We’re looking at what a new take on an operating system could be like. And so I know out there people are getting pretty excited saying, ‘Oh this is the new Android,” or, “This is the new Chrome OS.” Fuchsia is really not about that. Fuchsia is about just pushing the state of the art in terms of operating systems and things that we learn from Fuchsia we can incorporate into other products.
Whatever its purpose, it appears that Google now wants to reach out to the broader development world for assistance in making the operating system a reality. The company is asking for people interested in contributing to their project to visit fuchsia.dev and download the source code and emulator that will allow it to run. The company is hoping that users can further optimise the code and perhaps add their own new features to it that will help shape this new future of operating systems they are after. Though I’m doubtful they will give you any money for your contributions, but they could offer you a job if you can impress them enough.
Google has published a technical roadmap for the project, but it’s mainly focused on very low-level tasks like a Fuchsia Interface Definition Language” or “driver framework for updating the kernel independently of the drivers”. These are important features, but OS-es get their full value in how they are used and perhaps having users create their own experiences could help them to stumble onto a winner here.
Last Updated: December 10, 2020