Should Java be open source?

By : |April 29, 2004 0



The debate over this has been going on for some time now and is getting hotter day by day. On one hand, IBM is suggesting Sun Microsystems to open source Java, very strongly. Rod Smith, VP, Emerging Technogies, IBM Software Group in his letter to Sun’s Chief Engineer Rob Gingell, has even shown IBM’s willingness to work with Sun on an independent project to open source Java. On the other hand, Eric S, Raymond, president, Open Source Initiative has in an open letter said that the company’s policy on Open Source strategy is ‘spotty’ and ‘confused’.

However, according to Sun’s Chief Technology Evangelist, Simon Phipps, Sun has been the most active supporter of open source, bar Berkely University, and they understand open source ‘better than anybody else.’ He refuted Eric’s claim that because of Sun’s restrictions, Linux distributions are not able to include Java binaries for use as a browser plugin, by citing the example of SUSE who have managed to implement it successfully.

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According to Phipps, ‘Sun has no more control over Java than anyone else in the Java Community Process’. And if this was what so many people out there want, why hasn’t anybody else taken the initiative to create an Open Source version of Java? Probably, because it’s on the ‘too hard’ list, he added. As far as Sun is concerned, the company is not in a position to spend to drive this, and top on the priority list is Java 1.5.

Some of the Java enthusiasts are disgusted with this demand of the so-called ‘open source fanatics’, and are of the opinion that the language is Sun’s property and they can do whatever they wish to, with it. However, the followers of the open source paradigm feel that Sun should seriously think about it, as this is one of the main reason for less popularity of Java in the open source space. They also feel that company is losing out on inspiring thousands of open source programmers who could extend, enhance, and improve the capabilities of the language.

There are mixed responses, varied views and Sun Microsystems looks firm with its decision of not laying its hands on it, in the near future. Not to miss, Sun’s recently formed alliance with Microsoft, an enemy of open source might also play a major role in its decision to make Java open source.

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