The Death of CyanogenMod and What it Means for Development

The Death of CyanogenMod and What it Means for Development

The King is Dead, Long Live the King!

It appears that Cyanogen Inc. pulled the plug on CyanogenMod a bit earlier than expected. See the Addendum at the end of the article for archived links.

Cyanogen Inc. has finally delivered a bullet to the brain – of CyanogenMod. After years of tumultuous turnovers in the company, Cyanogen recently announced that the company would consolidate all of their efforts into a new Cyanogen Modular OS program.

As a part of their consolidation, the company announced that many of their employees, including Cyanogen (Steve Kondik) himself, would part ways with the company. Finally, today the company announced that all Cyanogen services and Cyanogen-supported nightly builds will be discontinued after December 31st, 2016.


The Death of CyanogenMod

After Cyanogen Inc. announced this news on their official blog, many people were confused and speculated what would really happen to CyanogenMod. Some people were convinced that nothing would change with respect to their favorite custom ROM, in no small part thanks to many blogs misinterpreting the Cyanogen Inc. statement. However, the team behind CyanogenMod clarified what this would mean for the popular Android distribution in a separate blog post. In essence, here is the gist of what will be changing:

  • All monetary and infrastructural support for CyanogenMod from Cyanogen Inc. will cease. This includes paid developers contributing code to the open source project as well as nightly build servers. As such, CyanogenMod will no longer receive nightly builds after December 31st. But wait, what if the team simply finds another host to build nightlies?
  • The CyanogenMod team will not continue official development on the project. Cyanogen Inc. owns the rights to the brand, so the CyanogenMod team has decided that it is no longer worth continuing development for the open source distribution without monetary or infrastructural support. In addition, even if the team were to find an alternative revenue stream (perhaps via donations), the trouble isn’t worth it due to the potential legal issues that could be involved if Cyanogen Inc., and all brands that the company owns including CyanogenMod, were to be sold to another company. Plus, the team argues that the CyanogenMod brand has been tainted due to its association with Cyanogen, so new users may be wary of installing CyanogenMod.
  • However, CyanogenMod will rebrand as LineageOS. We’ve been hearing of this project behind the scenes for the past few weeks, but now we have official confirmation regarding its purpose. This effort, presumably run by Steve Kondik himself, is hoping to revitalize what made CyanogenMod so great – a grassroots, community-driven effort at an Android distribution. We don’t know if LineageOS will take off, but it’s conceivable that if it does, the team could find a build server and set everything up to mimic the old CyanogenMod infrastructure – the end result of which would mean that little would change for the end user.
  • Cyanogen Inc. is not shutting down – at least not yet. This was made clear in the earlier blog post, but I’ve seen some confusion regarding the news that warranted some clarification. The company is downsizing and will focus on a new project (the “Cyanogen Modular OS” program), and they are merely cutting off services that they believe they can no longer maintain.

Although CyanogenMod is officially dead, the open source project will live on as LineageOS. But what does this move mean for the average user and developers?


The Future of Development

It’s difficult to say what will happen from here on out. There are multiple scenarios that could play out in the future:

  1. LineageOS really takes off, finding significant support from individual developers who pledge to continue maintaining LineageOS for their respective devices. Furthermore, the team is able to acquire a source of funding, probably by donations, to provide hosting and a server to build nightlies. Given that other smaller Android distributions have been able to find servers for building nightlies, this is not inconceivable.
  2. LineageOS takes off, but the operation will be toned down. Given the scale of CyanogenMod’s operation and the massive amount of funding that was contributed by Cyanogen Inc. to maintain support for devices, it may be difficult to find support for developing on lesser known devices. In this case, many devices may suffer a development drought as the development community largely relied on CyanogenMod to provide a stable branch that individuals could then fork. Popular devices will be less likely affected given the high demand for development and high amounts of developmental talent attracted to the device.
  3. LineageOS fails to take off. No matter how you look at it, this would be terrible for the enthusiast community. The issues mentioned in #2 would be further compounded, and many users would lose access to one of the most stable, longest lasting custom ROMs in the Android world. As for developers, this would mean that they would have to look elsewhere for a stable base. For example, XDA Recognized Developer SultanXDA has told us that he would not touch LineageOS if it does not have a stable branch and might instead turn to AOSPA as a base. Luckily for OnePlus owners, this won’t pose a problem, but for devices that do not have a stable AOSPA base (and in the future, will not have a stable CM base), it’s hard to say what will happen.

All of these are hypothetical scenarios of what’s indeed a fork in the road for CyanogenMod and Custom ROM developers. Whatever scenario plays out will depend entirely on how much support LineageOS receives from the development community. Whether or not the death of CyanogenMod spells the death of stable custom ROM development on certain devices will be up to developers and users alike. If you’ve used a CyanogenMod ROM in the past and would like to show your support, now is a critical time to ensure that spirit of the project lives on in LineageOS.

You can follow Lineage OS at LineageOS.orgTwitter, Facebook and Google+


Addendum #1

CyanogenMod’s website, wiki, forums, Gerrit, and download servers have all been taken down 6 days before the promised date. Thankfully, some users have been scrambling to archive as much material as they could get since the announcement, so some material has managed to survive.

Here is an archive of the CyanogenMod blog post bidding the project farewell. Here is an archive of the CyanogenMod wiki. Here is an archive of all CyanogenMod snapshot builds. Data hoarders across the net are racing to see what else they can salvage. We will keep our readers updated if there are any major developments on this story.

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