Life at Eclipse

Musings on the Eclipse Foundation, the community and the ecosystem

Celebrating Eclipse at 20

Today the Eclipse project and the Eclipse Foundation are shipping Eclipse IDE 2021‑12, the latest in a string of releases that go back to November 2001. How better to mark its 20th anniversary than to celebrate another release!

Last month we published a press release and a landing page to celebrate twenty years of Eclipse history, which we are augmenting today with a celebration video that includes great segments from Eclipse project leaders, both past and present. I highly recommend taking the time to watch it to learn about the history of this ground breaking open source project, as well as hearing where the community plans to take it in the future. And, definitely don’t miss the guitar solo at the end! I would like to thank the members of the original Eclipse project team who participated: Erich Gamma (Microsoft), John Duimovich (Red Hat), Steve Northover (IBM), and Paul Buck (Eclipse Foundation). I would also like to thank Sarika Sinha (IBM) and Mickael Istria (Red Hat), who joined the video to talk about the project today and who continue to make the Eclipse IDE a great platform for developers around the world. 

It is impossible to overstate the impact that the Eclipse IDE has had on the software industry, the open source community, and the Java ecosystem. Envisioned originally as “a kind of universal tool platform – an open extensible IDE for anything and nothing in particular”, The Eclipse project and platform can be celebrated for many milestones. Here are just a few:

  • The technology itself was groundbreaking. Using the Java language, while utilizing the desktop UI frameworks, made the Eclipse IDE a fast and attractive solution for the enterprise developers of the day. Don’t forget that the original design intent was to compete with Microsoft’s Visual Studio and ensure that the Java ecosystem had an ecosystem of professional tools. Coupling that with the most extensible architecture ever seen in a tooling platform made the Eclipse IDE perfect for its time. No one can dispute that the Eclipse IDE was part of the overall value equation that allowed Java to become dominant in the enterprise.
  • The Eclipse Rich Client Platform was based on the insight that if you could build desktop-portable IDEs, you could re-use that platform for building desktop-portable applications. Pre-dating the Web 2.0 technologies that we now all use, RCP was the go-to technology for building portable desktop applications in the enterprise for a decade. RCP was used extensively in banking, insurance, and healthcare (to name just a few) as the basis for the applications that millions of people used every day.
  • Language support was another key Eclipse win. Although to this day many developers think of the Eclipse IDE as Java-centric, it was used to create language IDEs for almost every available programming language. Today the Eclipse C/C++ Development Tools (CDT) project remains the dominant platform used by the embedded and RTOS markets for their developer tools. Arm, Renesas, Xilinx, ST Micro, NXP, etc. all ship Eclipse IDE-based products today.
  • The “Eclipse Way” of development, first described by Erich Gamma and John Weigand at EclipseCon so many years ago, explained how an open source project could sustainably deliver high quality code on a predictable schedule. And those processes still work today, as we celebrate yet another Eclipse IDE release delivered on time to the day. For over 16 years now, that highly predictable schedule delivered by an open source community has been a marvel of mature development processes embraced by a community.
  • While commonplace today, the Eclipse project was one of the first (if not the first) projects to consciously create a consortium of industry players in support of an open source community. It is hard to overstate how novel this was in 2001, when the professionalization of open source was an entirely new idea. I can confirm that the experiment was a success.

But none of this would have been possible without the hard work and dedication of literally hundreds of people over the years. Initially created by the IBM subsidiary Object Technology International, the Eclipse IDE in its early days was very much an IBM-led project. The Eclipse Foundation was created in 2004 as a vendor-neutral home for the project in order to help build trust amongst potential adopters, and to steward a community. By all measures that strategy was a success, with many IBM competitors joining the Eclipse Foundation and creating tools on top of the platform. After a few years, Eclipse adopters were a who’s who of the industry at the time, including BEA Systems, Blackberry, Borland, Computer Associates, Compuware, HP, Intel, Motorola, Nokia, Oracle, SAP, Sybase, and Wind River. 

The success in growing the Eclipse ecosystem resulted in an increase in potential contributors, and today the Eclipse Project is incredibly diverse with over a dozen different companies supporting committers on the project. On behalf of the entire community, I would like to thank each and every one of the committers and contributors who have and continue to make the Eclipse IDE a success.

And finally, twenty years is a long time. I would also like to thank and remember the team members who I knew personally that are no longer with us to enjoy this moment. Jeem and Dani, you are missed.

Written by Mike Milinkovich

December 8, 2021 at 9:12 am

Posted in Foundation, Open Source

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