Cyberborean Chronicles

Open Source Java

After long period of indistinct reassurances and promises and, finally, the triumphant announce on open-sourcing Java SE platform before the end of this year, it is the first interview that sheds some light on the details of this topical question.

The people who concern both Java and OSS development were, of course glad to hear that hopeful news from Sun although there was a lot of questions, as legal as well as bare technical. In this interview, James answered to some of them.

Likely the most mind-blowing issue is a license of the future Java platform releases. James has emphasized its importance and even stated that “The difference between what we do now and open source has mostly been around the license”. Although, no of the specific license types had been mentioned. But without doubt, it will be a OSI-approved license and apparently, the same as of Solaris (CDDL, based on Mozilla Public License). It was declared by Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz at his October’s “open-sourcing Java announce” (see above), but later Sun stated officially that “We’re not ready to talk about the licenses”. So I suppose, consensus on this question is still not reached in the company and James politely left it aside.

[Upd:] Earlier (after May’06 JavaOne), Jonathan wrote in his blog that “using a GPL license is very much *on* the table”, so the choice seems between GPL and CDDL. However, the results of the poll shows that the Java developers community also would like to see Sun’s JDK under Apache license (30% against 22% for GPL, 14% for LGPL and only 6.8% for CDDL).

The motivation of open sourcing Java is stated briefly and clearly:

We want better conversations with the developer community, a more collaborative relationship. We want to have better relationships with many of the Linux distributions…

I think, taking care of compatibility with Linux distros is remarkable and it confirms the fact that more and more of the leading corporations cannot ignore this platform anymore. Indeed, it is oddly enough that Sun is selling their machines with Ubuntu preinstalled, but Ubuntu developers cannot include Sun’s JDK into the distribution by licensing reasons. On the other hand, the results of heroic efforts on the alternative open-source implementations are still far from the “original” Java to be useful at any rate.

An important thing is how the project will be organized. It is looking like that the development model will be far from a “bazaar-style”. The process of defining the specifications will be kept by the Java Community Process (as it is now), that is general direction and major design decisions will be still somehow controlled by Sun.

So it shouldn’t give anybody any concerns as far as fragmentation. We’re not just going to let random people check random code in. Just like every other open-source project, we will end up with a set of rules for who’s allowed to check in a lot. Everything will get checked and rechecked and debugged.

It is noteworthy also that the project will use Mercurial for source-code management, instead of conventional CVS which was said “don’t work well for large-scale projects”.

Indeed, not too much of info but it’s looking like nobody in Sun doesn’t know more at this moment. The web-page of Open-Source Java Initiative now contains only the list of persons behind it.

[Upd:] I’ve found that the home of open-source JDK community is actually here.

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