Life at Eclipse

Musings on the Eclipse Foundation, the community and the ecosystem

My Prediction Still Stands

There has been a flurry of articles and blogging today regarding the process by which Sun will release Java into open source. I believe that this is a topic of specific interest to the Eclipse community, given our basis in open source and extensive use of Java.

Apparently yesterday Sun announced a roadmap for their eventual open sourcing of Java. They’ve set a goal of having both Standard Edition (SE) and Micro Edition (ME) open source by the end of this year. In my mind, it is really good news that they have committed to making ME open. AFAIK, that had previously been ambiguous.

One element that I find curious is that Sun has talked quite extensively about where they are looking for inspiration on community building. Some examples include this mindmap from Cote’, and this quote from Laurie Tolson, Sun’s vice president of developer products and programs: “On the governance side people want an easy way to contribute and interact. We are looking at the Apache, Linux, Solaris and other governance models. We are still in the early stage of gathering input”. Simon Phipps saysExpect a steady stream of news from now on, as well as an honest desire for dialogue with everyone.”

I hope Rich Green hasn’t forgotten my email address, as I have to admit that I find Eclipse’s conspicuous absence from their lists of examplars to be somewhat disheartening. Especially given what a gift Eclipse has been to growing the Java development community over the past five years. The fact is that an Eclipse Foundation-style model of independent, open governance with no special votes or vetoes for any particular corporation is exactly the model that Java needs to have if it is to be successfully re-invigorated. I really believe that Eclipse remains the very best current example of how a company can set free a community of innovative projects which supports a large and diverse commercial ecosystem. And Eclipse’s dynamic growth since the creation of the Foundation proves that the model works. If it works for Eclipse, why can’t it be a model for Sun and Java?

Back in May at JavaOne I participated in the JavaPro Java Technology Roundtable, where I made the following prognostication:

Mike’s fearless prediction: you’re going to use CDDL, and you’re going to use an OpenOffice, all-Sun governance model, and people will hate you for it. [The “you” in this sentence refers to Sun.]

If you take a look at the list mentioned by Tolson, it seems like other than Solaris the examples they’re looking at are unlikely to get them very far. Emulating Apache is a non-starter. First of all, the Apache style of governance is antithetical to any project under single company control. Secondly, emulating Apache would just be dumb. Don’t emulate it. If you like their approach, just open source Java at Apache. I’m sure that the code contribution would be welcomed by Harmony.

Emulating Linux also seems far-fetched, as it is ultimately a reflection of Linus Torvalds’ benevolent dictatorship. And regardless of any shared god complexes, Gosling is no Linus.

Which leaves us with the OpenSolaris governance model as the likeliest candidate. Note the majority votes held by Sun appointees. Note that it is an advisory board to what remains a Sun-defined and Sun-controlled Sun project, just like OpenOffice and NetBeans. (Let’s ignore the JCP for now.) Contrast that to the Eclipse Foundation Bylaws, which form a legally distinct entity controlled by an independent Board of Directors with a fiduciary responsibility to “…to cultivate both an open source community and an ecosystem of complementary products, capabilities, and services.

I do totally agree with Simon that it is categorically unfair to “...characterise [the process of open sourcing Java] as an intransigent Sun fighting bitterly against an obviously right social movement…”. But at the same time I do think that it is fair to carefully scrutinize their decisions on the topics that really matter to all of us: licensing and governance.

I wish Sun well in their odyssey. I really hope that they can find a way to establish Java as truly free and independent. But so far I stand behind my prediction.

Written by Mike Milinkovich

August 15, 2006 at 3:30 pm

Posted in Foundation

10 Responses

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  1. Stupid !@#$!@$ blind anti-Eclipse sentiment causes Sun to ignore one of the most successful Java open source projects ever?Steve


    August 16, 2006 at 9:25 am

  2. Nice to see you have balls Mike 😉


    August 16, 2006 at 12:13 pm

  3. You need to spend more time over on, Mike (as does the researcher feeding you, Scott Handy and Dan Frye talking points). For example, the governance you are sniping at is a bootstrap, and the new proposal has no golden votes of any kind (or membership fees). If you (or indeed Steve) have positive contributions to make like members of the open source Java community have they would be most welcome.


    August 16, 2006 at 8:13 pm

  4. Oh, give it a rest already. I’m profoundly tired of Eclipse-people complaining about Sun. It used to be the other way around, but lately this has changed and I’m not sure why.And don’t get me started on the “why don’t you come join the eclipse-community?”-thread. If Eclipse had wanted Sun to join them you wouldn’t have selected such an offensive (to Sun, at least) name in the first place.Besides, competing implementations (NetBeans/Eclipse, SWT/AWT a.s.o) is good for the community. NetBeans would not be as good as it is today if it wasn’t for Eclipse, the same with SWING in Java 1,5 compared to SWT/JFace. Great news for me as a developer and user.Yes, I use Eclipse every day, my primary job is actually providing project management (and coding on the side) for a fairly large internal application that is being realised as Eclipse plug-ins.


    August 17, 2006 at 3:58 am

  5. You need to spend more time over on, Mike (as does the researcher feeding you, Scott Handy and Dan Frye talking points). Simon, you simply demean yourself when you imply that my comments were in any way co-ordinated with Scott or Dan. They weren’t. My comments are my own independent work and were not influenced, reviewed or timed with anyone.For example, the governance you are sniping at is a bootstrap, and the new proposal has no golden votes of any kind (or membership fees). You’re right. The new proposal is better. But if you were truly committed to independence, why not take the extra step create as a 501(c)3 or 6? There is a big difference between a truly independent foundation and a “…social organization … formed by Sun Microsystems, Inc.”If you (or indeed Steve) have positive contributions to make like members of the open source Java community have they would be most welcome. Simon, my comments *were* positive. Eclipse would be a *great* model for an independent open source Java community. You need to take your “I hate Eclipse” blinders off. Geir’s already suggested that you simply contribute the code the Harmony. Others have also pointed out the importance of governance. So I wonder why it’s only my comments that you’re fretting over?

    Mike Milinkovich

    August 17, 2006 at 10:06 am

  6. Oh come on, Mike. When you, Scott Handy, Dan Frye (and indeed Ross Mauri) all use a similar framing strategy to diss Sun at about the same time, it’s only natural to be suspicious. And Scott’s view of open source projects, that “There’s room for a proprietary one and an open one. Once one is open, you don’t need any more” seems very familiar too. But as I respect you I’ll accept your word that they’re not feeding you personally.


    August 17, 2006 at 11:34 am

  7. Simon,Point taken. My apologies if I over-reacted.

    Mike Milinkovich

    August 17, 2006 at 11:55 am

  8. Hey Simon!>(or membership fees). If you>(or indeed Steve) have positive>contributions to make like I plan to become a committer for AWT!Steve


    August 17, 2006 at 3:37 pm

  9. Sounds good, Steve. You done that SWT JSR yet?


    August 18, 2006 at 8:58 pm

  10. Not started.Steve


    August 21, 2006 at 10:27 am

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