Replicant is a project aiming to provide a fully freeAndroid distribution running on several devices. Replicant is thus a Free Software project that intends to replace the proprietary software that many phones need to make use of the full potential of the hardware or other functionalities of the device.
The Replicant project started in middle 2010 in order to gather various initiatives attempting to produce a fully free-as-in-freedom Android derivative for the first ‘Google phone‘, the HTC Dream. It was founded by Bradley M. Kuhn, Aaron Williamson, Graziano Sorbaioli and Denis ‘GNUtoo’ Carikli. The project quickly led to the writing of replacement code for the non-free parts that were required to make the HTC Dream functional. The first component to be replaced permitted audio to work without any non-free library. The idea of creating a repository of free software for Android and Replicant, along with a client application, was soon considered by the Replicant team, but the first attempts didn't succeed. Later, the F-Droid project was started and brought a working free software repository along with a client that is seen as a free replacement to the Android Market.
The software that was in charge of handling the communication with the modem (that is called Radio Interface Layer – RIL) was then replaced by free code, thus making the telephony part usable. A library handling the GPS was then adapted from free code that was originally written for another phone and permitted the HTC Dream to have GPS working with Replicant.
On 3 January 2013, the project released version 4.0 of their fully libre SDK, partly in response to concerns over Google updating the license for add-ons and binaries under a proprietary agreement.
The scope of the Replicant project was enlarged with new supported devices, first with the Nexus One and then with the Nexus S and Galaxy S. Replicant developers are still trying to add support for various new devices, basing their choice on various aspects of the device, making the port to Replicant (and thus the amount of work required to make it work without non-free software) easier.
As development went on, many members of the original Replicant team retired from the project, making Denis ‘GNUtoo’ Carikli the only remaining member from the original team still actively working on the project. On April 2011, developer Paul Kocialkowski decided to get involved in the project and gradually became the main Replicant developer, after successfully porting Replicant to the Nexus S and Galaxy S devices.