Compatibility Issues and Innovation

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2006-05-01 Print this article Print

Sun has always said compatibility is paramount when it comes to Java. "I realize theyve been concerned about compatibility issues, but Ive never understood why they wont rely on trademark law for these issues and let it Java flourish in an open-source environment at a time when Java could really use it," said Cliff Schmidt, an open-source consultant and a member of the Apache Software Foundation. "They must understand how important compatibility is to most of the significant open-source projects."
In an interview from 2004, James Gosling, the creator of Java, told eWEEK, "I like to think of the way weve handled Java over the last years as being essentially open-source. Anybody can go to the Web site and get the source to J2SE [Java 2 Platform, Standard Edition], the whole 9 yards. Youve been able to do that for a long time.
"So the source is certainly available. You can take that source and you can make all kinds of changes to it. All the open-source projects have licenses of some sort and ours has a license. And it basically says you cant redistribute it unless you pass the compatibility tests, because we actually care about compatibility and reliability." Ari Zilka, CEO of Terracotta, an enterprise Java company based in San Francisco, said, "The entire industry is throttled with respect to innovation because of licensing restrictions." And open-sourcing Java would spur innovation, pushing the platform forward, he said. Many developers agree that the only way for Sun to open-source Java would be to have a governing body prepared to oversee it. But its already got the JCP. Guru Jakob Nielsen offers advice on designing applications for usability. Click here to watch the video. Meanwhile, while many appear to be interested in seeing an open-source Java, some developers and open-sourcers agree with me that open-sourcing Java is not too exciting. "It might ensure better adoption in the Linux community, but Im not sure its a big deal," said Zack Urlocker, vice president of marketing at MySQL, based in Uppsala, Sweden. One Java developer said open-sourcing Java "would mean nothing to me and probably nothing to most developers either. People asking for this are usually more interested in conducting a religious open-source crusade than writing Java code. From a developers perspective, we already have access to all the Java sources that we need, and open-sourcing Java would pretty much only mean having access to the source of HotSpot [the Sun JVM], which is of little interest to most Java developers." In the long run, Tangosols Purdy said, "a move to truly open-source Java will cement its position for the decade as the primary platform for business applications." Maybe. Maybe not. All I know is what I said at the outset: I just dont care. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis in programming environments and developer tools.

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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