This page is about the promises and claims regarding open source Sailfish OS.
FOSS is an abbreviation of Free and Open Source Software
Last update on July 22, 2017

1. Is Sailfish OS open source licensed?

Currently not.
Sailfish OS is proprietary software of Jolla Oy, Finland (license).
However, the software includes a lot of open source licensed components.

So, is it going to be open source licensed? 

       June 14, 2017 Vesa-Matti Hartikainen, Program Manager at Jolla:
We have a plan of open sourcing more of the components, and Silica would be part of that. So far we haven’t been able to open more components as our investors have been very cautious due to financial situation. -- If our customer work proceeds nicely, as it looks now, then we should be able to proceed with opening up. SOURCE (community meeting)
      February 8, 2017 Sami Pienimäki, CEO at Jolla:
Previously we’ve also mentioned that we’re working on the further open sourcing of Sailfish OS. We have now taken the necessary steps and preparations to enable us to further open source Sailfish code, in particular in the areas of apps and UI. We have a decision process ongoing but you should expect exciting news on this during upcoming months. SOURCE (blog)

      November 29, 2016 Sami Pienimäki, CEO, and Antti Saarnio, Chairman of the Board, Jolla:
“We are working on that,” says Pienimäki. “We are currently looking for a step-wise model that we would be opening further in the application and the UI layer. We will share that plan in more concrete detail once we have it more fully available to be implemented. But that’s something we remain committed to.

“As you can maybe see also from this collaboration model together with our licensing customers they also prefer a very much open source, collaboration type of a model in combination with the licence.”

“Open sourcing is actually an investment from our side,” adds Saarnio. “It doesn’t happen in that way that we just simply open source the code and then think that everybody’s happy. We have to build support processes for this so that the community can actually make something meaningful out of the open source code.

“And it’s not a small investment from our kind of a company… But we are committed on proceeding on the same path… But it has to be a carefully managed process — otherwise you don’t get any contributions.” SOURCE (Techcrunch interview)

      May 28, 2015 Antti Saarnio, Chairman of the Board at Jolla:
We have a timeline to open source basically all of the non-commercial parts, some of them are third party parts which we can’t open source of course. But we have a timeline to open source most of the platform — because it helps us to work with the developer community and also our partners. But we are not yet releasing the timeline. We will come out very soon with an announcement about the scale of this open sourcing scheduleSOURCE (Techcrunch interview)
      For more mentions of "open source" either as a promise or an existing feature, see subtopic 6.

2. What components are already open source licensed

While the OS as whole is proprietary, there are several open source licensed components among the software packages.

In practice, Sailfish OS has an almost open core, topped with proprietary user interface and the most of the essential apps. 3rd party commercial parts are proprietary too. Having proprietary hardware drivers under the core is typical for all mobile devices.

Overview on this image shows which components are open. More details on subtopic 4 and on the comments below the post. Image source
  • proprietary packages framed violet
  • open source licensed framed green

3. Community powered translations

Sailfish OS user interface is open for contributions for its translations under separate terms and conditions. Jolla has shared the language files of Sailfish OS open source components, and of its proprietary components.

Unfortunately, the service in use (Pootle) does not enable filtering the files by the component's license, and neither is that license shown anywhere. For those contributors who are willing to join only open source projects, picking only these files from the list (currently 84 files, of which about 10 are for translating open source components) is practically impossible. Anyway, here's a couple of examples of language files for translating components carrying an OSI compliant license:

4. Available open source code on Sailfish OS

Sailfish OS sources & Linux kernel sources:
Mer core (middleware software):
See also:

5. Open source vs. proprietary packages in more details

A mid-term review based on licenses of packages on Sailfish OS. Image from this review is still up to date for Sailfish OS 2.0 (Thanks for confirming this to us Ossi1967, see comments below)

6. "Open source" used in marketing purposes

Jolla has used words "open", "openness" and "open source" in the marketing of their software. Wrong usage of "open source" during Jolla Tablet Indiegogo campaign was publicly notified by OSI. Few examples, latest known on top:
  • 2017-07-08 Find Best Open Source
  • lists Sailfish OS claiming it has a "Public" license 
  • 2016-02-24 Jolla at MWC16, Press Event, video at 0:11:05 -->
    Antti Saarnio, Head of the Board at Jolla presented Sailfish OS to the press:
    "We have Sailfish operating system, unique open innovation platform ...",
    "Then, we have lots of interest from the security device vendors, who sees that our open source platform very interesting and very unique opportunity to start building on more security features on top of that."
    , and
    " source is that when the core is visible, you can really see that there are no backdoors."
    Related articles after the event: 1234
  • 2015-08-14 Jolla to Kauppalehti (Finnish video, Subtitled version)
    "security is based on fully open source OS" (04:00, translated)
  • 2015-07-23 Androidpit (article)
    "The open source Sailfish OS" 
  • 2015-05-08 Jolla (article)
    "-- several open source projects, and Sailfish OS is one of them."
  • 2015-03-02 Softpedia (article)
    "-- real open-source alternatives like Sailfish"
    2015-03-02 Tech Week europe (article)
    "-- running the open source platform"
  • 2014-11-15 Jolla at Slush 2014 (video, time 17:40)
    Tablet announcement, spoken, claims it's open source
  • 2013-10-02 Jolla at Mindtrek (image below)
    "We don't use open source - we are open source"
  • 2013-05-20 Laptopmag (article)
    "Sailfish OS is an open source mobile operating system"
  • 2012-12-29 Engadget (article)
    "this open source mobile OS" 
  • Undated: Engadget (product listing)
    "Sailfish OS, key specs, source model: open"

The following articles, originally mentioning "open source" have been corrected with a later update:

From the lists above we can clearly guess that the misuse of terminology is intentional and it's been going on for several years, despite the reaction of OSI. This misuse might have played a role in

  • engaging the open source community to support SW development
  • development of 3rd party applications running on Sailfish OS
  • gathering contributions in the Jolla Tablet Indiegogo campaign

7. Community feedback

8. Where to find more information?

Open Source license situation has been discussed mostly in SailfishOS, open source, collaboration meetings. The meeting schedule and topics. You can also find other related questions on TJC.

Sources:, (EULA)
Published: 2015-09-20 18:21 UTC
Updated: 2017-07-22 08:27 UTC


  1. I believe you're being too harsh claiming that "Sailfish OS mobile operating system is proprietary software". This is as wrong - probably even more so - as saying "Sailfish OS is free software.

    You have a graph here that shows how more than 75% of Sailfish are free software. This is probably as close as you can get on such a kind of device (if you want it to be still usable). I'd like to know which script you used to count... or better: which packages were included when counting. Did you also count Alien Dalvik, the gallery app or the calculator? I'm not sure f they qualify as part of the OS at all:

    Of all the bits and pieces that are under a proprietary license, I'm inclined to ignore those that are applications rather than parts of the core OS. The first diagram lists Maps, Clock, Calculator or even the startup wizard as proprietary components. While they sure are proprietary, they're not part of the OS and don't play a part in the big picture. (I see things differently with applications like Contacts, the Jolla Store or Messages as long as the underlying architecture doesn't allow a fully functional 3rd party replacement.)

    I also won't look at Alien Dalvik (which is an add-on) and Exchange Active Sync (which is a proprietary protocol - whoever uses it in his daily setup certainly isn't that much interested in free software anyway.)

    What I do think is critical is Silica, the whole UX layer in general and (as I said above) core applications that interact closely with the OS and can't easily be replaced by the user right now (dialler, messages,...). Lower level parts in the hardware adaptation layer are a mess, anyway. I would dream of having everything free and open here, but I doubt that it's remotely possible to have free replacements for codec a or driver b that are just needed. (I'm not only talking about technical difficulties, but also legal ones.)

    It's not black or white. In reality, there's more than 50 shades of freedom, and SailfishOS is pretty close to the final goal.

    1. Hi Ossi!

      The chart comparing two older Sailfish OS versions includes all pre-installed software and additionally those apps copyrighted by Jolla (not for example Aliend Dalvik or Exchange Active Sync)

      "It's not black and white" - Actually it is, the shades of freedom might happen when one mixes up "software" and "package". Software (in this case Sailfish OS) is either OSS or proprietary, and a single package included in it is either OSS or proprietary too. Sailfish OS includes many open source licensed packages, but they don't yet make the whole operating system OSS. At the moment it's proprietary.

    2. Hi Simo,

      thanks; I did my own chart meanwhile. Much simpler, as I didn't compare 2 versions, just looked at the status quo. It's worth looking into it and keeping it documented.

      As for the "shades of grey"-thing... I'm not sure if I understood you correctly, but what I read in you reply is something like "It's tainted with proprietary software, and as long as it is, it's not free." Like a vegetarian wouldn't accept a sauce as vegetarian that consists of 95% vegetable but 5% meat. If Sailfish is the sauce, yes, I at least understand your point of view.

      In my world, being free or non-free is determined by the license. There's no one license for Sailfish OS. That's why I'm convinced it's mandatory to judge packages, not whole distributions. There's is one for the browser, one for GStreamer and its components, one for the telepathy framework, one for the kernel, etc. etc. - That's why from my POV, the licensing situation cannot be black or white as there's no license to judge.

      Also, what you say is basically "As long as it contains proprietary bits, its totally free". Yet, at the same time, I could claim "As long as it contains free bits, it's not proprietary", which you probably wouldn't agree with. :) That's why I claim that in both sentences, what's missing is the word "totally". "As long as it contains proprietary bits, its not totally free" in regards to Sailfish OS (as with any other distribution) is as true as "As long as it contains free bits, it's not totally proprietary"... which brings us back into the grey area.

      However, quite a few of my friends are vegetarians. I know how they sometimes refuse to eat potatoes and some vegetable because there's bacon on the same plate. So people do have different ways to see the world, and all of them are true to somebody.

    3. Hi again Ossi, and thanks for your comment

      Great work with your update, interesting that the percentage of closed packages remains exactly the same (19%) in your data compared to SFOS 1.1.0 on the pie above. There were 654 packages in my comparison, you mentioned more than 700 which means there are new packages with both proprietery and open source licenses added since then. (I assume you gathered your data from SFOS 2.0.0)

      Regarding the license, Sailfish OS sure has one. It grants "right to access and use our Software for your own personal non-commercial use. If you received our Software integrated into a product, your license is limited to use of our Software on the product in question." (eula)

      Regarding the sauce, your example works well to describe the point of view in the post above. The desired POV might vary for developers/users too, but one possible POV here: When all pre-installed components brings in a functional platform, and each of those has an OSI compliant license, the whole OS could be licensed as OSS too. In this case, all proprietary packages should be left as optional (example: Ubuntu / Canonical), and the functionality should not be dependent on those (but they could improve the user experience for those users who want that). Impossible to reach?

    4. Hi Ossi, did you judge that license I linked? Did it clear out the "grey area" issue you brought up?

  2. Hi Simo, sorry I simply missed your replies. Someone was wrong on the internet and I had to fight for the truth. :)

    The EULA you link to explicitly covers only the non-free parts of Sailfish OS. (See: "The core components of our software ('Free Software') are all available as open source [...]. Free Software is available under its own terms [...]") That's logical and necessary as Jolla legally cannot set up a license agreement for software that's not theirs and that's already covered by a different license. So you can think of this EULA as an "if no other license - like (L)GPL - applies"-fallback which covers the closed parts of SailfishOS (roughly 20%), but not the whole OS.

    I totally agree that the desired result should be that the base is a fully functional platform made of free software, 100% free software, and that the option to install certain non-free packages should be up to the user. (Actually, I even think it's a good policy to warn the user when he's about to install non-free components. On my gentoo box, I need to change my system configuration to accept dubious licenses.) However, I don't see this happen in the mobile business right now. I hear that Ubuntu contains less proprietary elements in its mobile version than Jolla (never had time o check that), but still needs to rely on closed components when it comes to drivers and proprietary codecs needed for GSM telephony. I remember people discussing this issue of openness with regard to the N9, the N900, the Nokia Maemo tablets... and i never understood it because I thought: Well, yes, it's not 100% free software, but it's as close as we get. So rather than criticising the ones that offer 80%-solutions, I tend to support them and instead fight those who are not open at all (or only 20% open).

    OTOH, we might be late with this discussion - let's see what alternatives remain if Jolla doesn't succeed. :(

  3. The EULA covers the software as whole, when received among with a device - but maybe let's not get back to the "software" / "packages" difference, as I guess it's quite clear: As whole, it's proprietary, but includes 81% of packages which are open and separately available for free, however not available as a functional OS.

    Instead, it might be nice to compare the situation with some others. Currently, the operating systems carrying an open source license (for a whole, functional experience) are: Android, FirefoxOS, UbuntuPhone and a great bunch of other smaller OS's, one of my favorites being Eclipse (mostly because of that their openness is whole, including code, development and communication)

    On Android, there's a huge issue that the development doesn't take place in open, and contributions are handled via Google (separate agreement, CLA, signed by all 3rd party developers). So the governance is pretty far from openness there, even that the software carries a nice license...

    What I'd like to advance with, between us here, would be to expand the discussion to cover openness also in the non-licensed area (governance in development/sharing, company/developer cooperation, communications), in which Sailfish OS might be ending up using the CLA solution similar to Google as well. Sure, currently many things are on ice so it's not an immediate issue... We could as well go on after we know something more on the other issues.