Android and the political economy of the mobile Internet: A renewal of open source critique

Kimberley Spreeuwenberg, Thomas Poell


This paper examines how and why Google in developing Android, the popular mobile operating system, has strategically adopted particular open source practices, but ignored others. It explores how through these practices, the corporation has been able to cultivate and control a vast mobile Internet ecology. This ecology involves large telcos and equipment manufacturers, as well as a mass of third party application developers and hundreds of millions of mobile Internet users. It allows Google to use and build on the contributions of independent programmers. More importantly, it facilitates the harvesting of valuable metadata of Android users, crucial for the development of new location–specific services and advertising. This paper shows how these corporate strategies, which combine intricate technical, legal, and political–economic maneuvering, shape the rapidly growing mobile Internet, and, consequently, have far–reaching economic and cultural consequences.


open‐source; Android; Google; software studies; political economy; critique

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