Should the Cryptosphere Develop Its Own Mobile OS?

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In Brief
  • Balaji Srinivasan believes that an open source Android fork optimised for crypto is possible this year.

  • The suggestion came in response to news that Google will require all Play Store apps to use its In-App Payment system from next year.

  • He also suggested that such a solution could help turn mobile phones into handheld digital identity, security and wallet systems.

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Balaji Srinivasan has suggested that a crypto-optimized Android CyanogenMod operating system may be crypto’s ideal response to Google’s growing centralization.



Writing on his Twitter handle on Sep 29, the former Andreessen Horowitz partner compared the growth prospects of such a project to the growth of the Brave Browser.

Balaji made the suggestion in response to a post by Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin who suggested that the crypto space should develop its own mobile phone operating systems to maintain its independence from Google.



Both statements came in reaction to the news that Google is making its In-App Payments system mandatory for all Android Play Store apps from next year.

Google’s Centralization: A Growing Pain Point

Earlier this month, BeinCrypto reported that Google and Apple both suspended Epic Games’ developer accounts on the Play Store and AppStore. This was done because the developer introduced an in-app direct purchase option on Fortnite that bypassed both in-app purchases (IAP).

Epic promptly sued both companies, and the case remains in litigation. On Sept 28, Google then announced that all Play Store developers have until Sept 30, 2021, to comply with its new policy, which mandates the use of its IAP system.

Already Google faces a federal antitrust investigation by the US Department of Justice, as well as antitrust probes by at least seven state attorneys general and a House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee.

Some worry that Google and Apple see crypto and its decentralization as an existential threat to their centralized revenue harvesting models. Coinbase founder Brian Armstrong recently wrote an open letter to Apple, where he listed these concerns and accused the company of restricting access to DeFi apps.

A Crypto CyanogenMod to the Rescue?

Abandoned in 2013, the CyanogenMod project developed an open-source variant of Google’s Android OS, which ran on up to 50 million mobile devices around the world at one point.

Buterin’s appeal for the crypto space to develop its own operating systems and escape Google’s growing monopoly seems to have struck a chord with Balaji, who suggested that a crypto CyanogenMod could be the way forward.

According to Balaji, such a solution could adopt Brave’s methodology by starting with one crypto-focused product and expanding out from there.

In his view, this solution could eventually end up becoming an expanded next-generation handheld identity, security, and payment management solution.


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David is a journalist, writer and broadcaster whose work has appeared on CNN, The Africa Report, The New Yorker Magazine and The Washington Post. His work as a satirist on 'The Other News,' Nigeria's answer to The Daily Show has featured in the New Yorker Magazine and in the Netflix documentary 'Larry Charles' Dangerous World of Comedy.' In 2018, he was nominated by the US State Department for the 2019 Edward Murrow program for journalists under the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP). He tweets at @DavidHundeyin

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