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After a decade, open source Java is still controversial

Paul Krill | Nov. 14, 2016
Ten years on, Java founder James Gosling sees upside in the open source move, while others believe Sun didn't go far enough

Sun was not an open source champion back then, Rahman adds.

“Open-sourcing the JDK had a lot to do with Sun retaining credibility and increasing adoption for Java in the face of pressure from the broader community, industry, and IBM,” Rahman says. “Even then Sun pretty tightly controlled contributions to OpenJDK. Oracle does exactly the same.”

Gosling likes the decision to go with the GPL.

“I think it’s worked well,” he says. “We always had to juggle the community’s freedom against ‘bad actors’ who were always trying to hijack the community.”

While plenty could have been done differently with the open-sourcing, things would have only turned out worse, Gosling says. “Avoiding powerful hijack attempts was the No. 1 reason that the licenses were less liberal than many would have liked.”

The Java community, he adds, is on a pretty good track right now. “I’m really looking forward to JDK 10.” Java Development Kit 9, not 10, is due next summer, featuring modularity.

Rahman, now a senior architect at CapTech Consulting, would like to see reformation of the JCP to reduce Oracle’s strong control. Despite his reservations about how the open-sourcing has gone, Rahman still likes the move.

“It is definitely important for Java to be completely open source. It allows for some degree of contribution from the community, keeps the code relatively open, helps adoption by building confidence in the enterprise, and allows for some third-party use of OpenJDK code,” he says.

More broadly, the open-sourcing helps build a strong ecosystem around Java by signaling that the platform is open source-friendly, Rahman adds. “Without open-sourcing the JDK, I don’t think Java would be where it is today.”


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