Last week I used the metaphor of a ‘Gilded Cage’ to describe the ‘walled gardens’ and the curating of the internet online landscape. This week I want to repurpose this metaphor to explain my ideas on the open Vs closed software debate. The most recognisable and notable examples of these softwares are Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android.
Similar to Sterling’s (2013) stacks the closed nature of the iOS software can be described as a gilded cage, it allows for a safe, curated user experience which is carefully aligned with the vision and values of Apple Inc. Zittrain (2010) states that Apple and by extension the iOS software is a “gatekeeper to a devices’ uses”, which for me conjures images of 1984’s Big Brother and the idea of censorship in general. But it is not all bad in the world of iOS, it provides many users with clean and easy access to the mobile web, access to ‘approved’ apps and access to software which is hard to infect due to this vigilant gate keeping.
Google’s Android OS on the other hand is an open-source software that allows and actively promotes the refinement and adaptation of its source code (Mitew 2014). The world of Android is a world of perpetual beta or as Raymond (2001) would state “Release early. Release often.” This allows for a continual improvement of the user experience due to the feedback and development of other users. This open software architecture allows for the escaping from the ‘gilded cage’ and for a much more wild and wide web (which is not necessarily a good thing).
For many users from either side iOS or Android there are not many practical differences as sites such as facebook, twitter and instagram all are equally accessible from both devices. For the general consumer there is no real practical difference, but for produsers and the techno elite Android has the advantage.