XDA Behind the Scenes, Part 3
This is the last part of a series of articles that reveals some of the processes, technology, and systems that keeps XDA running. It’s brought to you by our awesome host, LeaseWeb, which provides the brawny server infrastructure on which XDA runs. Previously we wrote about our moderator system and about the server configuration. In this final installment, our Developer Admin, pulser_g2, takes a look at how various programs have contributed to maintaining a developer-friendly environment in the forums.
A lot has changed at XDA over the years. Originally a site centered around Windows Mobile, things were very different. In the past five years however, the days of modifying closed source, binary operating systems have given way to a new era of (semi) open-source devices running the Android operating system. One of the fundamental principles upon which XDA was founded was the concept of mutual benefit and sharing. In the early days, developers shared their understanding of the “unknown” inner workings of a mysterious operating system, and ultimately learned more, and made better software for phones.
In the days of Android, however, a lot has changed. Firstly, smartphones have gone from being a toy for the geek to a tool for the masses. Almost everyone now has a smartphone of some variety, and the overwhelming majority of them currently run Android. With so many devices being worked on at once, XDA has grown to new heights, and has more and more developers posting their findings and work here. At the same time however, we’ve seen a growing trend of some manufacturers to cede to carrier pressure and lock their devices down to prevent users having control over the software they run. We at XDA believe this is a gross affront to the core principles of free software, and do what we can to ensure users can use their device to its full potential.
To that end, we launched the XDA Development Database in 2013, which acts as a gateway to find what you need for a device, showing ROMs, kernels, and tools for each device. We plan to continually expand our Development Database system and eventually offer a mobile component to make it easy to find software for your device directly from your device. We’ve also just announced XDA’s Root Directory, to help our users find their way towards getting their device rooted and unlocked, onto which they can flash custom firmware. The directory will be updated weekly to ensure new devices are added and that the latest root methods are considered.
As part of our same quest, we introduced the concept of the Recognized Developer and Senior Recognized Developer, which quickly expanded to cover Themers and other Contributors to the site. These programs were intended to offer users a little added reassurance that the user in question has demonstrated a level of competency over a period of time. In fact we continue to refine our criteria for these titles so that the “Recognized” badge on XDA is representative of the highest-caliber Developers, Themers, and Contributors. We also have a number of perks for our Recognized users. With DevDB, developers have free access to high speed upload space to host their ROMs, kernels, themes and apps. We also automatically produce a torrent of every file uploaded, to give users yet another option for downloading what they find on XDA (and providing a fallback to the original file being unavailable for any reason)
We also have been experimenting with offering more to our developers, including providing access to shared build servers (for free), to help remove the huge computer-specification barrier to building Android ROMs. With the XDA buildservers, it is possible for developers to quickly sync sources, even if their own internet connection is very slow, and compile their ROM without melting their laptop to the desk. We’re always looking towards expanding our offerings, when we are able to do so, and we look forward to bringing more and more things out in the coming months, to help more and more people free their phones from the preinstalled software, and realize the full potential of their devices. If you’re a Recognized XDA member and want access to our build servers, send a PM to pulser_g2 and he’ll set you up.
In the last year, XDA has also hosted its first annual conference, xda:devcon, and tickets are now on sale for the second, in Manchester, UK, which will take place September 26-28 of 2014. The conference is for developers, by developers, and offers an incredible event to learn about various facets development and to network with some of the best mobile developers in the world. With a whole host of speakers set up to give a varied set of talks, and some interactive workshops in planning, now’s the time to order your ticket (20% discount here).
A big thanks to LeaseWeb for sponsoring this series of articles. LeaseWeb provides the server infrastructure on which XDA runs. They have plenty of other fantastic offerings even if you’re not running a site as large as this, with as many huge files being uploaded and downloaded constantly. Their cloud servers are completely scalable and start at just $7 per month. Check them out!