Open Source Leader Takes Suns Schwartz to Task

Open-source leader Eric Raymond spells out his objections to Sun President Jonathan Schwartz's contention that the Java Community Process is truer to open-source ideas than is Linux.

Linux supporters were seeing red after Jonathan Schwartz, president of Sun Microsystems Inc., made several claims in a news story earlier this month.

In particular, Schwartz claimed that Suns JCP (Java Community Process), which oversees Java, is truer to the ideal open source described in the Eric Raymonds open-source movement bible, The Cathedral and the Bazaar.

Raymond, president of the Open Source Initiative, doesnt see it that way. He explains in his reasons in an open letter: "Jonathan Schwartz of Sun recently claimed that Suns Java is developed more in the mode of the bazaar than Linux is," he wrote. "To quote him, They dont get a vote. That seems awfully cathedral-like as opposed to the bazaar of the JCP."

But voting, according to Raymond, isnt the point of the open-source bazaar.

"The essence of the bazaar is not voting—a concept I never mentioned in The Cathedral and the Bazaar and dont endorse—but the right to fork. Anyone who doesnt like Linus decisions about Linux can fork the code base, start his own effort, and compete for developer and user attention on a legally equal footing. That is the essence of the bazaar," Raymond wrote.

Raymond then went on to explain that, from where he sits, JCP is anything but open source.

"Sun can vapor on about voting and committees all it wants, but at the end of the day JCP is still a single point of control, the Java reference implementation and class libraries are under a proprietary license, and nobody can legally fork them," Raymond wrote. "As long as that continues to be the case, Java will be firmly stuck in cathedral-land and any claim otherwise will be disingenuous crap."

That said, Raymond thinks Sun could embrace the open-source community with Solaris.

"Sun has broadcast its intention to open source Solaris, and I take Sun at its word on this. According to [a] report, theyre planning on throwing Solaris open for all the right reasons, and I applaud them for it."

Still, Raymond wondered why, if Sun is willing to open source Solaris, the company is not willing to open source Java.

"…Rather than blowing smoke about the bazaar model, I think Mr. Schwartzs time would be better spent explaining why he thinks those reasons dont apply to Java—especially when IBMs intention to release a fully open-source JRE (Java Runtime Environment) and class libraries within the next year or so is about the worst-kept secret in the industry. IBM executives scarcely even bother to deny this any more," Raymond wrote.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read about how Raymond has advocated the open sourcing of Java.

That said, Raymond continued, "I dont dispute Suns privilege to make whatever business decisions it thinks it needs to. They wrote Java, and they have the moral right to set any licensing terms they choose on it. I will defend them against anybody who claims they are in any way obligated to open source Java. When you pay the piper, you get to call the tune."

That doesnt mean that Raymond is letting Sun off the hook for what he sees as Schwartzs misuse of open-source terminology.

"…Any time they try to use my work to justify retaining proprietary control or argue that Linux is somehow less open than Java, thats either culpable stupidity or dishonesty, and they should expect to get kicked in the teeth for it by the entire open-source community, starting with me."

Sun and the OSI have had a rocky relationship.

In early November, Schwartz said, "Many in the open-source community are feeling marginalized at this point, and so we are having a robust discussion with them. We want to do the right thing for the community and our stockholders."

But some people inside the Java community agree with Raymonds assessment that the JCP is not an example of the open-source bazaar. In the popular Java developer site Javalobby, the majority of people who commented on the question, "Is Java a cathedral or a bazaar?" agreed that the Linux model is truer to the open-source bazaar concept than JCPs cathedral model.

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