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Open-Source Java? "The Debate is Still Going On, Fast and Furious," Says Gosling

Open-Source Java? "The Debate is Still Going On, Fast and Furious," Says Gosling

  • Sun Will Open-Source Java "Today, Tomorrow or Two Years Down the Road"
  • Breaking News - Sun: "Make No Mistake, We Will Open Source Solaris"
  • "Let Java Go" - ESR Writes an Open Letter to Scott McNealy
  • "Letting Java Go" - James Gosling in 2003 on Open-Sourcing Java
  • "Let's Collaborate on Open-Sourcing Java": IBM Writes Open Letter to Sun
  • Sun's Schwartz: IBM's Request "Seems a Little Bonky"
  • McNealy to IBM: "Go Open Source with DB2 and Then You Can Tell Me What To Do with My Assets"


    James Gosling has now joined the discussion about whether or not Sun will be open-sourcing Java any time soon.

    It sounds as if they won't be doing it in a hurry. No decision has been taken, Gosling says, "despite any of the articles," a reference to the widespread media speculation over the past 48 hours that Jonathan Schwartz's Shanghai announcement about open-sourcing Solaris would inevitably be followed by a corresponding announcement from Sun about Java.

    This is in line with Gosling's earlier statements on the issue. At JavaOne last June for example, he said:

    "I am certainly one of the people who would love to make it open-source. But it's hard for two reasons. One is that open-source ways of dealing with software work really well so long as you get this sort of collegial atmosphere. If you happen to have a bully on the block who is really strong, it really doesn't work. We have this history of having been victimized, and there are lots of people who are nervous about that."

    Scott McNealy, when last asked about open-sourcing Java, memorably quipped that Sun would open-source Java only when IBM did the same with DB2.

    Here is what we reported at the time, back in March, when McNealy expressed concerns that open-sourcing Java might "fork" it:
     

    [McNealy] rejected Eric Raymond's call to "Let Java Go" and noted Sun's longtime experience with the open source community.

    "We've been around the block many times on open interfaces, open systems implementation, compatibility. Nobody has more experience on community development," McNealy said.

    As he has done before, McNealy pointed to what he considers to be the fractured nature of Linux, where a Red Hat distro can have features not compatible with another flavor of Linux.

    But he saved his most combative tone for IBM itself. Speaking to IBM through the assembled reporters in Washington, DC, he said:

    "Go open source with DB2 and then you can tell me what to do with my assets."

     

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    JDJ News Desk monitors the world of Java to present IT professionals with updates on technology advances, business trends, new products and standards in the Java and i-technology space.

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    Most Recent Comments
    ben 06/08/04 10:12:31 PM EDT

    I'm a developer using Java/Swing. I have no interest in tinkering with the language itself. I leave that up to Sun and so far they have done a pretty decent job of it.

    Trey Spiva 06/08/04 09:28:50 AM EDT

    How will it help the Java community to have Java fracture? Because of the lack of standards caused by the fracturing of Java, it will become impossible for 3rd party tool venders to support the Java language.
    Example: Linux is a GREAT operating system. However, few people us it (except for the die hard MS haters). Why? Becausae it is too hard for the common user to get components to work on Linux. Why? Because each Linux kernal is different and there are no standards that 3rd party venders can conform to. So, instead we have each kernal vender fighting each other instead of a organized attack to defeat other operating systems like MS windows. This approach is doomed to fail.

    Jerf 06/05/04 10:02:48 AM EDT

    People are naturally asking "What does open sourcing Java get us?"

    My answer is "Java on the desktop", where it has been an abysmal failure. Yep, there's three or four applications you can point at that are the exception... now show me 20 or 30 common Java desktop applications.

    Imagine Java + QT or Java + GTK. I'm a Python partisan and frankly pretty much hate Java, but you know, stick a decent, time-test GUI toolkit on it and I might consider developing with it in the future, especially in light of the other improvements being made to it.

    (Being able to program in Java without making me gag would probably improve my employability long term, though I'm still running successfully with "if I never learn Java I'll never have to program in it" without limiting myself as much as you might think...)

    openstandards.net 06/05/04 10:00:59 AM EDT

    I've developed in relational databases since inception (dBase II), including all major commercial databases today. I can tell you, I am SO glad DB2 is not open source or attempting to be the Universal "run anywhere" database of the world. It is very behind the times due to it's extensive legacy customer base. The only benefit it has is performance on IBM hardware.

    k head 06/05/04 09:59:37 AM EDT

    Many people sincerely believe that open sourcing java will help java.

    IBM certainly has invested a lot of money in java and now they are feeling uneasy about it. you would too if you spent billions of dollars on a technology completely controlled by one of your competitors. They want to help Sun open source java so they can continue to pour money into it.

    If Sun does not open source it I predict IBM will shift it's focus away from java. They might just open source their own implementation and call it something else which would seriously hurt sun.

    0x0d0a 06/05/04 09:58:44 AM EDT

    DB2 is big and complicated.

    Big and complicated projects have generally not done all that well in the past with respect to gaining major open source effort, because they're complicated and hard to jump into.

    I'm not sure what the point of open-sourcing DB2 would be. We have more than enough databases to hack on already that *are* open source.

    randyest 06/05/04 09:57:39 AM EDT

    we're mad at Sun for not open-sourcing Java. But we can't say what, exactly, we will gain from open-source Java that we don't have now (other than the ability to fork or otherwise hassle Sun with dilution and increased risk of being MS-swamped)?

    Deven 06/05/04 09:24:20 AM EDT

    I can understand Sun's initial reluctance to open-source Java years ago -- Microsoft would have (probably successfully) embraced and extended Java, as they indeed tried to do. At the time, the closed license was beneficial.

    Here's the compelling reason for Sun to open-source Java now -- Microsoft no longer has an incentive to embrace and extend Java. They've done an end-run around the Java license by reimplementing a virtually identical language and calling it C# instead of Java. Microsoft will keep pushing C# over Java, and they're already successfully stealing away significant mindshare from Java. Microsoft has proven their ability to (illegally) leverage their monopoly position to acquire new markets. I hate to say it, but in the battle of C# vs. Java, the smart money is probably on C# unless something changes.

    Making the Sun reference implementation completely open-source would change the rules of the game. Microsoft might try to subvert it again, but there really wouldn't be any point; C# does the job equally well. More importantly, the rest of the industry would embrace Java even more than it already has, and it could serve to steal mindshare back from C# despite Microsoft's monopoly advantage. This is a compelling reason to do it.

    jared hanson 06/05/04 09:23:05 AM EDT

    Let's say there was a fork, Sun holds the trademark to the Java name so said fork could not promote itself as "Java." If it did, it would have a lawsuit on its hands that is a guaranteed loss.

    If it forked, it would become some other language, and people could decide to use it or not based on its merits. However, those in the Java camp would know where to look for the Java they want.

    Furthermore, example proves this point. We have languages like Perl, Python, Ruby and countless others that are doing just fine in the open source world.

    metlin 06/05/04 09:22:07 AM EDT

    You forget the fact that companies that have vested interests in killing Java *cough* a certain Seattle based company *cough* could use this against Java.

    I'm NOT starting a flame war here - but Microsoft does not really consider Perl or Python to be as serious a contender as Java.

    What do you think really inspired Visual Studio .NET? Microsoft has everything to gain by killing it - it would only more people to use their platform.

    Right now, Java gives people the freedom of platform - if in any way killing it or changing it in a way that makes it beneficial to MSFT, they WILL do it.

    maugt 06/05/04 09:20:31 AM EDT

    If Sun followed the Linux model - and key engineers at sun reviewed each change and made sure that it was ok to add to the release, and followed through everything openly, then it would work.

    Your argument doesn't hold water. Where are all the forks of Linux? Just because it's a language does not mean it will fork and fracture. Perl isn't forked to hell. Nor is Python. Nor are many open source languages.

    If Sun truly believed in open source (and I don't believe they do), then this would be a great step forward for them.

    And McNealy's challenge to IBM to open source db2 is silly too; Sun makes no money from selling Java licenses (duh, they're free), where as IBM does make money from db2.

    metlin 06/05/04 09:18:59 AM EDT

    McNealy's right. There is nothing to stop Microsoft from having their own "Windows-only" forked version of Java. And nothing to stop from the GNU/Debian crowd to have their own "puritanical" version. And nothing to stop from IBM to have their own "enterprise-ready" version of Java.

    If you notice, even in case of Linux, Linus and a handful of others actually maintain the core kernel code. In case of language, it would be difficult to have this kind of a central point of control - the forking would be really hard to control.

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