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The Unwritten Story Of Open Source Java
I left Sun in 2004 after 8 fun years at Javasoft. Open Source Java was a annual discussion at Sun

Calvin Austin's Java Blog

What Sun finally did this week by releasing Java under GPL was a historic event. Using the GPL instead of yet another Sun license certainly makes adoption that much easier. But why did it take so long and why the change now?

I left Sun in 2004 after 8 fun years at Javasoft. Open Source Java was a annual discussion at Sun and in many conversations with open source advocates and companies. Many of the engineers I knew were for open sourcing Java as long as the motivation wasn't just to simply reduce headcount in engineering. However each proposal got shot down somewhere in the approval process. There were theories on how, who, why but ultimately the result was the same, at best a small compromise in the license but still no open source Java.

However competition is good, in the same way that C# ultimately made Sun continue to invest heavily in Java, the continued investment in projects like Harmony were always on the radar. In addition having a technical relationship with the IBM Java team meant that IBM used every opportunity to request Sun open source Java as every JSR lead was reminded as the defacto IBM comment in the JSR approval process was that IBM request a change in the license.

Danese Cooper decided to work out the full timeline of open source Java The People Who Brought You FOSS Java as you can see its been a fairly long road and involved many people. Sun kept many communities involved including the Java champions which I have to give them full credit for, although it would have been even nicer if we could have dropped the NDA! So in closing, this is a great week, could have Java been open sourced earlier, yes but even late in Java's timeline it could be the real jolt that desktop Java needs. Do I think Java will fork?, no, maybe slightly, but nothing that would affect companies that standardize on a version anyhow.

Oh and Dalibor, I really owe you that beer now!

Comments are listed in date ascending order (oldest first) | Post Comment
  • Thanks, Calvin, I'm looking forward to meet you one day and then pay you back all the beers I own you!

    Posted by: robilad on November 15, 2006 at 07:14 PM

  • I am not happy at all with this. Those gpl kiddies are everywhere. At job interviews for Java software developer they ask you what you think of linux (or better linsux) and now sun choice for gpl. If I want to use an open source Java I would choice Apache Harmony, and gpl is forbidden inside Apache, the best policy you can think of ! Apache rulles, Sun SUCKS!!

    Posted by: carmello on November 16, 2006 at 01:19 PM

  • Calvin,

    Java will not fork, simply because it is stil a TM of Sun that is protected by the JCP and the pass of the TCK to get the "green ticket". This means, that the JSR have the full controle on what is inside the TCK and what is tested... at any time they can raise the compatibility level if required ;-)

    Plus the license chosed and its viral effect when forking will preven "anticipated predators" to sing their famous song : "embrace and extend" !

    GPL of Java will mean that on medium term perspective, major platform could be "LinJa" insead of "LAMP". The arrival of PHP on Java platform (see quercus) is first sign of this.

    GPL will benefit the quality of the implementation, because Sun has not enough resources to fix all the long-lasting bugparade hits ! I am anticipating a tsunamy of contribution ... so the question is now : will sun be able to handle the validation burden of the patches review ?

    I think that at a point of time, they could be constrainted to even accept that some "top contributors" (understanding perfectly the platform and the arcanea) can directly commit on the tree. Let's see ....

    Carmelo, GPL and Apache is a known issue. I think the only reason left that could have prevented Sun from GPL Java was Apache impact ! AFAIK, there is nothing preventing Harmony to be still successfull (say if a "famous donator" and "major java player" would be kind enough to donate their SDK ) . Gimme an H, gimme an A, gimme an L :)

    Plus, from my understanding, with classpath exception, all the Apache libraries will go on to interroperate perfectly with Java. So side effect on Apache Java projectsbut Harmony. FYI, releasin the Sun code to Harmony is not possible because the Apache License is not viral. So it means, "anticipated predators" could go in "carnage" mode. I don't know anybody in the Java community want a fork to happen, knowing the power ot this predator.

    Rgs, JB

    Posted by: bjb on November 17, 2006 at 05:58 AM

  • Calvin, We are looking for a lead developer like you to join our team! Are you in the NYC area? We are at E2CG.com. Best regards, Richard Celic rcelic@e2cg.com

    Posted by: e2 on November 27, 2006 at 01:08 PM

About Calvin Austin
A section editor of JDJ since June 2004, Calvin Austin is an engineer at SpikeSource.com. He previously led the J2SE 5.0 release at Sun Microsystems and also led Sun's Java on Linux port.

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I left Sun in 2004 after 8 fun years at Javasoft. Open Source Java was a annual discussion at Sun and in many conversations with open source advocates and companies. Many of the engineers I knew were for open sourcing Java as long as the motivation wasn't just to simply reduce headcount in engineering. However each proposal got shot down somewhere in the approval process. There were theories on how, who, why but ultimately the result was the same, at best a small compromise in the license but still no open source Java.




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