DeviceAtlas made a public copy of an open source GitHub repository created and licensed by competitor 51Degrees. 51Degrees is an innovative competitor of DeviceAtlas. DeviceAtlas is a product owned and operated by Afilias Technologies.
51Degrees device detection technology can be used to identify the make, model, screen size, price, age and chipsets (among 100s of other attributes) associated with smartphones, tablets and other devices accessing a web site, installing an app, or accessing a mobile network. 54,047 models of devices and over 1,246,420 combinations of OS, browser and device are included. The technology has become an important component in many web businesses.
The copied repository contains code published by 51Degrees during April 2019 to efficiently identify models of Apple iPhone and iPad following the release of iOS 12.2. iOS 12.2 rendered previous techniques used to identify Apple models obsolete. As Apple continually modify iOS, 51Degrees made part of the solution available so others can understand the techniques, use the code on their web sites, and create a public record of the changes. A number of further enhancements are planned for the coming months.
51Degrees filed United Kingdom Patent Application No. 1905888.2. to protect the invention before publishing its source code on GitHub. The repository implements just some of the techniques described in this patent application. 51Degrees holds many other patents related to the field of device detection.
51Degrees licenses their source code under the popular Mozilla Public Licence 2 (MPL2) – the same licence used for the Firefox web browser. The licence is permissive and allows anyone to use the source code under the condition they acknowledge 51Degrees’ contribution in their own licences or end-user agreements.
It is important to note that Afilias have not violated any software licence or patent in making a public copy. The action is however highly unusual.
Commenting on the move, James Rosewell CEO and Founder of 51Degrees stated, “For years now 51Degrees has led device detection innovation. Our algorithm operates at over 22,000,000 queries per second on commodity hardware, we never scrape data from Amazon, GSM Arena, et al, and we were the first to introduce native application support. It is incredibly flattering to me that Afilias have copied 51Degrees work. To my mind, it’s like Oracle copying Microsoft’s .NET open source. DeviceAtlas have suggested a modification to the repository which we will evaluate alongside the modifications already in the works. Perhaps this move signals a willingness to work more closely together on the common goal of better device detection.”
This is not the first time Afilias Technologies have made use of a competitor’s open products. Ronan Cremin, CTO responsible for DeviceAtlas, stated on a public forum in 2012 “DeviceAtlas isn't based on WURFL but we did use data from it in the past”. WURFL was an open source project that has now closed down and been absorbed into ScientiaMobile.
It remains to be seen what DeviceAtlas’ intentions are behind forking 51Degrees.