Google proposes a way to make Fuchsia “natively” run Android and Linux apps
Fuchsia has always come across as a somewhat mysterious project ever since its inception. Google has been openly working on it since 2016, but it was only in May 2019 that the search giant ever commented on its existence, stating it’s nothing more than an experiment. Unlike Android and Chrome OS, which are built on top of the Linux kernel, Fuchsia uses a new microkernel called Zircon. Google describes Fuchsia as an open-source OS that’s “secure, updatable, inclusive, and pragmatic”.
Multiple theories are floating around what Google plans to accomplish with Fuchsia, with one of the most popular being Fuchsia eventually replacing both Android and Chrome OS. Seeing how this OS is still in its infancy compared to the established Android platform, that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon, though. However, if a new Google proposal (via Thurrott) ever comes to fruition, it appears that Fuchsia could run native Android and Linux apps.
The document submitted on the Fuchsia Gerrit proposes the development of a compatibility layer called Starnix, which can “translate requests from the Linux client program to the Fuchsia subsystems”, essentially allowing native Android and Linux apps to run on the platform without having to resort to virtual machines or emulators.
As we expand the universe of software we wish to run on Fuchsia, we are encountering software that we wish to run on Fuchsia that we do not have the ability to recompile. For example, Android applications contain native code modules that have been compiled for Linux. To run this software on Fuchsia, we need to be able to run binaries without modifying them.
The proposal further notes that the intention of this compatibility layer “is to create an implementation of the Linux interface that can run existing, unmodified Linux binaries.” If you’re interested in the technical side of things, you can read through the proposal document here.
The ability to run native Android and Linux apps on Fuchsia sounds exciting. However, it’s worth noting that this is just a proposal — and not the actual documentation of the finalized feature — and could very well not make it into the OS.
Although not much is known about Fuchsia’s end goal at this stage, its development has been going at a steady pace as of late. Google recently expanded Fuschsia’s open-source model to allow public contributions. The company set up new mailing lists for project-related discussions, added a governance model, and also opened up an issue tracker for public contributions.