Open-Source Java: One Year Later

Q&A: Sun Microsystems' community marketing manager talks about the open-sourcing of Java and what's to come in the future.

Sun Microsystems open-sourced its Java technology a year go, in November 2006. Rich Sands, community marketing manager for Java Platform Standard Edition for Sun, sat down with eWEEK Senior Editor Darryl K. Taft to discuss how the year with Open Java has gone.

Nov. 13 marks the one-year anniversary of when Sun open-sourced Java. What are some of the key milestones from the past year?

It has been quite an exciting year and some of the key milestones from this past year include Nov. 13, 2006: We open-sourced several components of Java SE [javac, HotSpot], and the entire Java ME code base, both CLDC [Connected Limited Device Configuration] and CDC [Connected Device Configuration], under the surprising and courageous choice of GPLv2. Richard Stallman said: "It shows leadership. Its an example I hope others will follow." The "Java Trap" finished.

Then, in spring 2007, after attending several worldwide open-source and developer conferences, including TechDays in Hyderabad, India, FOSDEM [Free and Open Source Software Developers European Meeting] in Belgium and FISL [Forum Internacional Software Livre, or the International Free Software Forum] in Brazil, we realize that the developer world is giving us a standing ovation for our choice, and for the transparency we are striving to achieve in how we move through the process.

In May 2007, Vodaphone Betavine expresses interest in collaborating with the mobile and embedded community at CommunityOne. Now larger players in the Java ME (Micro Edition) ecosystem have started to recognize the value of FOSS [free and open-source software] innovation.

On May 8, 2007, we released a fully buildable implementation of the JDK [Java Development Kit] on the site. Rich Green [Suns executive vice president of software] announces this at JavaOne during the opening keynote, along with the formation of the OpenJDK Interim Governance Board, and a promise to provide TCK [Technology Compatibility Kit] access to OpenJDK-based free software implementations of Java SE (Standard Edition).

On June 7, 2007, the IcedTea project forms to deliver a patch set for the OpenJDK code base that allows it to be built from 100 percent free source code, using free software build tools. IcedTea is both a testament to the eagerness of FOSS developers to dive into the code and get a completely unencumbered implementation out there, and a sober reminder to Sun that were entering into a new world where things move fast, and if we dont keep up, well be left behind.

Later, on Aug. 9, 2007, Sun announced the OpenJDK Community TCK License Agreement, the idea being if you have an implementation based on OpenJDK and distributed under GPL, and you want to make sure it is compatible, you can gain access to both the TCK for certifying compatibility, and once certified, you can use the "Java Compatible" brand. All under terms that make sense to the FOSS community, and respect both the requirements of the GPL and the spirit of free software.

On Nov. 5, 2007, Red Hat announced that they signed the Sun Contributor Agreement [SCA] and the OpenJDK Community TCK License Agreement [OCTLA]. A significant player in the Linux world agrees to join and contribute, and to work towards shipping a 100 percent free and compatible implementation as part of their distributions. This also paves the way for most of the IcedTea developers, who work within the Fedora project at Red Hat, to align IcedTea even more closely with OpenJDK.

Then on Nov. 13, 2007, one year later, the OpenJDK project has been downloaded nearly 12,700 times by developers in the six months since the JavaOne announcement of a fully buildable JDK. And that tracks only full bundle downloads of the 6.5-plus million line code base, and not checkouts through the read-only Subversion repository.

The OpenJDK Interim Governance Board is actively working toward creating a constitution. The mailing lists are active, with a lot of passionate developers both inside and outside of Sun discussing the code, the new Mercurial SCM, and how best to work together.

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