Coming from the school of stock Android users, the hack and root community has always fascinated me. Whether it is their extreme dedication to cracking every Android device on the planet, the speed and ferociousness displayed when ripping into new OS builds, or the fervor they show for the platform and its open nature, you have to give them quite a bit of credit. While we report news coming from the hacker community on a daily basis, I have always viewed the crowd taking part in said activities as a small niche group of die-hard programmers with too much free time. While a lot of the last sentence is probably true, I would do better to call them anything but small.
Case in point: Peter Alfonso recently debuted his “BuglessBeast” build of Android 2.2 for the Motorola Droid. He tweeted the download link from bit.ly and sat back as madness ensued and the build quickly spread across the internet. And thanks to some statistics that can be accessed through bit.ly we are able to get a glimpse of just how many Droid owners crave the customizations and power unlocked through custom ROMs. An astounding 37,642 users downloaded the ROM through bit.ly alone (and this isn’t counting any instances where the build was re-hosted).
True, millions of Droids have been sold, so 40,000-ish may be a drop in the bucket, but considering Peter Alfonso also offered a completely unmodified version of Android 2.2 for the Droid at the same time that only garnered about 1,000 downloads, it shows this number wasn’t simply padded by impatient Droid users who wanted Froyo (besides, builds of Froyo for Droid have been floating around almost since the OS was officially announced).
This equates to almost 40,000 members of the Android community who are actively interested in the custom ROM scene, and that’s not including owners of any other Android handset. No wonder it seems these guys are so quick when they have such a huge community to exploit.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be too surprising when things like an open-sourced OS and overly-enthusiastic programmers go hand-in-hand, but it sure is enough to make you re-evaluate your own considerations of root. Is it really a fringe movement? Or is root becoming more and more common with each new Android handset that is released. I for one am starting to feel like Luke Skywalker on a maintenance scaffold somewhere in the depths of Cloud City: “Root, I am your father. Come with me to the Dark Side.”