Fuchsia by Google

Fuchsia, pronounced /ˈfjuːʃə/

Fuchsia, pronounced fyoo-shuh, is known to every well-educated florist as a plant whose flowers are of very nice and eye-pleasing appearance with a distinct, vivid purplish red color. The plant was named so by a botanist, Charles Plumier after the 16th century German botanist Leonhart Fuchs.

That’s all nice and dandy, but it’s not the reason why you’re reading this post. You’re here b/c Google has something going on behind closed doors, and that for some years now. First only a project title, we now know more and more about it - and it’s even more monumental than we initially thought.

One new OS, from scratch please!

Fuchsia’s first appearance was in August 2016, when it appeared as a project title of a self-hosted git (a self-hosted git repository is just another version control system, but only for your team hosted on your team’s server/environment). Fuchsia is a new OS developed by Google. One of the most fascinating aspects of this project is its very foundation: Fuchsia isn’t based on a known, available Kernel but rather on one built up from scratch, known as Zircon. This is huge news, as it implies some very interesting points:

  • Building your own Kernel is no easy task
  • A custom, new Kernel demands a lot of resources to mature enough being ready for prime time
  • Whoever is serious about a tailor made Kernel really intends to reach a degree of independence not available in most other products
  • Building Zircon also means maintaining Zircon

Runs everywhere

From what we currently know, Fuchsia will run a wide variety of platforms, such as embedded systems, mobile devices like smartphones and tablets as well as desktop. Historically speaking, the OS was first spotted being tested on embedded systems, specifically unknown smart home IoT-devices. Fuchsia can be compiled for ARM64 as well x86 and x64.

Flutter, Dart, Escher

Building apps for Fuchsia is primarily enabled by the Flutter SDK. Sounds familiar? Well, Flutter is no unknown in the current world of cross-platform development, as it's an alternative to React Native and, to a certain extent, Cordova. You can right now start learning Dart by building your first Flutter-app, which can run on a wide range of Operating Systems such as Android, iOS or macOS and even in the browser as a web app. So even though Fuchsia isn’t really available as of writing, you can (theoretically) start developing your next big app for it right now - with the asterix that things are still in active development and only meant for tinkering.

But don’t get too excited, the learning curve is still there: Flutter-apps can only be coded in Dart, a programming language also created by Google. It's all coming together.

To give developers and users access to some serious graphics performance, Fuchsia implements a rendering engine called Escher, which itself is based on Vulkan. Never heard of Vulkan? That’s the heir to OpenGL with next-level features required for a new graphic engine.

Much to read, little to see

We don’t know much about Fuchsia’s looks, as only one video (as of writing) exists that demonstrates a real navigation flow on a test device with an internal build of the OS. Check out the links below to see the video.

At Google’s IO 2019, an official documentation for Zircon was released, but a lot of information is still not available. Fuchsia remains mostly a mystery for now, which makes it that more exciting to keep an eye on it. Maybe IO 2021 will be the moment when the certain gets drawn and Fuchsia in its complete form gets revealed!

Yet one thing seems clear: years of development show that Google is serious about the project. Although Android is a marvel regarding the implementation of the JVM and usage of Bytecode on all kinds of devices, even the very low and underpowered ones, Google may seek to cut all dependencies for its future devices roadmap and power them with an OS, Kernel, graphics engine and language all of its own. Ditching Linux for bootstraping and going the hardest possible way by writing something like Zircon yourself is a very bold statement. All signs point to a future where this project will be fundamental for the company and not the next Google Wave, Google+ or Messenger.

- Tom

expressFlow is now Lean-Forge