Last week saw Sun bite yet another bullet and pledge to cut what's left of Java's umbilical cord and release its source code. So the industry's most anticipated - and indeed urged - open source software move will finally go ahead. Of course, it wouldn't have been a real Java announcement without a lot of umming and ahhing about what form Java is likely to take with its source code free to be forked by those who might bother to do so. Maybe Java will be spooned? Here's an idea - get the Java source code, remove all the pips (the parts that make it as slow as hell), clone all the juicy bits, add prettier icing (GUI), and bake a new, improved, stylish concoction that will be the darling of application developers worldwide.
Is that Sun's worst nightmare waiting to be cooked up? If it is then it's all to do with marketing, not technology.
Sun's fear is that Java will be forked and be associated with a non-Sun organization or corporation. Just look at how Ubuntu shot through the post-dotcom Linux distribution quagmire to sit alongside Red Hat and Suse as a tier-1 operating system brand. Linux distributions have essentially the same open source software, they're just packaged and branded differently. So will Sun, in an attempt to keep the Java brand tied to its own, introduce some "no forking" clause in Java's open source licence, or perhaps a "fork if you will but you can't call it Java" directive.
Indeed, the menu is changing with the new JDK Distros recipe which aims to communicate best practices for packaging Java with Linux distributions. Whatever the licence, Sun's fears of runaway 'Java' clones flooding the Internet - and confusing end users - are quite inconsistent with other, comparable open source projects. Sure, there's forking of individual applications and whole operating systems, but in the development space there are countless examples - like Perl, PHP, Python, Ruby to name a few - that have continuously thrived as a single source of the truth despite being fully open to the possibility of forking. It's time for Sun to stop treating Java like its own little cupcake, because giving up control will make better consuming for all.