Fuchsia is an open source capability-based operating system currently being developed by Google. It first became known to the public when the project appeared on a self hosted form of git in August 2016 without any official announcement. The source documentation describes the reasoning behind the name as "Pink + Purple == Fuchsia (a new Operating System)", which is a reference to Pink (Apple's first effort at a object-oriented, microkernel based operating system), and Purple (the original iPhone's codename). In contrast to prior Google-developed operating systems such as Chrome OS and Android, which are based on the Linux kernel, Fuchsia is based on a new microkernel called Zircon, named after the mineral.
|Written in||C, C++, Dart, Go, Rust|
|Source model||Open source|
|Initial release||August 15, 2016|
|Default user interface||Ermine|
|License||BSD, MIT, Apache License 2.0|
The GitHub project suggests Fuchsia can run on many platforms, from embedded systems to smartphones, tablets, and personal computers. In May 2017, Fuchsia was updated with a user interface, along with a developer writing that the project was not a "dumping ground of a dead thing", prompting media speculation about Google's intentions with the operating system, including the possibility of it replacing Android. On July 1, 2019 Google announced the homepage of the project, fuchsia.dev, which provides source code and documentation for the newly announced operating system.
In August 2016, media outlets reported on a mysterious codebase post published on GitHub, that revealed that Google was developing a new operating system called "Fuchsia". While no official announcement was made, inspection of the code suggested its capability to run on universal devices, including "dash infotainment systems for cars, to embedded devices like traffic lights and digital watches, all the way up to smartphones, tablets and PCs". The code differs from Android and Chrome OS due to its being based on the Zircon kernel (formerly called Magenta) rather than on the Linux kernel.
In May 2017, Ars Technica wrote about Fuchsia's new user interface, an upgrade from its command-line interface at its first reveal in August, along with a developer writing that Fuchsia "isn't a toy thing, it's not a 20% Project, it's not a dumping ground of a dead thing that we don't care about anymore". Multiple media outlets wrote about the project's seemingly close ties to Android, with some speculating that Fuchsia might be an effort to "re-do" or replace Android in a way that fixes problems on that platform.
In November 2017, initial support for the Swift programming language was committed.
In January 2018, Google published a guide on how to run Fuchsia on Pixelbooks. This was done successfully by Ars Technica.
A Fuchsia "device" was added to the Android ecosystem in January 2019 via the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). Google talked about Fuchsia at Google I/O 2019. Hiroshi Lockheimer, Senior Vice President of Chrome and Android, described Fuchsia as one of Google’s experiments around new concepts for operating systems.
Fuchsia's user interface and apps are written with Flutter, a software development kit allowing cross-platform development abilities for Fuchsia, Android and iOS. Flutter produces apps based on Dart, offering apps with high performance that run at 120 frames per second. Fuchsia also offers a Vulkan-based graphics rendering engine called Escher, with specific support for "Volumetric soft shadows", an element that Ars Technica wrote "seems custom-built to run Google's shadow-heavy 'Material Design' interface guidelines".
Due to the Flutter software development kit offering cross-platform opportunities, users are able to install parts of Fuchsia on Android devices. Ars Technica noted that, while users could test Fuchsia, nothing "works", adding that "it's all a bunch of placeholder interfaces that don't do anything", though finding multiple similarities between Fuchsia's interface and Android, including a Recent Apps screen, a Settings menu, and a split-screen view for viewing multiple apps at once.
After the second review, Ars Technica experts were impressed with the progress, noting that things were then working, and were especially pleased by the hardware support. One of the positive surprises was the support for multiple mouse pointers.
Fuchsia is based on a new microkernel called Zircon. Zircon is derived from Little Kernel, a small operating system intended for embedded systems. "Little Kernel" was developed by Travis Geiselbrecht, a creator of the NewOS kernel used by Haiku. Forbes describes the evolution of Zircon as
Zircon was previously known as Magenta and it was designed to scale to any application from embedded RTOS (Real-time operating systems) to mobile and desktop devices of all kinds. As a result, there has been much speculation that Fuchsia will be the natural successor to Android and Chrome OS, combining capabilities of both with backwards compatibility to run legacy applications built on either. In short, this thing is designed to run on anything from 32-bit or 64-bit ARM cores to 64-bit X86 processors and it has a potential to be rather disruptive.
The software documentation of the Zircon microkernel outlines the technical specifications. Zircon is the basis for the Fuchsia OS. Zircon comprises a microkernel (source in kernel/...) and userspace services, drivers, and libraries (source in system/...) as part of the boot process as well as talk to hardware. Zircon provides more than 100 syscalls. Zircon syscalls are generally non-blocking with the wait_one, wait_many port_wait and thread sleep being the notable exceptions.
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Right now, Google's built-from-scratch kernel and operating system will actually boot on the Pixelbook, and some things even work. The touchscreen, trackpad, and keyboard work and so do the USB ports. You can even plug in a mouse and get a second mouse cursor.
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