Sun's open source Java move gets mixed reviews

Two years later, availability is up, but Sun remains in charge of its future

Aleksandar Gargenta, a senior consultant at open source training firm Marakana, says having Java open and available makes the Java community stronger. "Personally, I haven't seen much of an impact because it doesn't affect me and what I do. But for the community, I believe that it solidifies the future of Java and basically makes it a more compelling technology," he notes.

Little impact seen on Java development Despite the broader availability of Java in open source products, Sun's inclusion of the open source community in Java's development has been limited. Kaul says that's because Sun is behind in the logistics of supporting those who want to actively contribute.

Eclipse's Milinkovich says Java remains very much a Sun-driven community. "I honestly haven't seen [Sun's open source move] changing the dynamics of the Java ecosystem," he says.

Milinkovich would like to see more support for the Apache Harmony version of Java. But Sun and Apache have disagreed over terms of a compatibility testing kit for Harmony, with Apache arguing terms of the license for the kit put restrictions on its users.

Rod Johnson, founder of the popular Spring Framework and CEO at SpringSource, says he has not seen much effect on the language part of Java since the open sourcing. "We think that Sun open sourcing Java is a good thing, but we also think with the language itself, Sun was already doing a fairly good job running it."

Sun's initial fears about forking of Java, leading to fragmentation, have not been realized. "Obviously, the community really doesn't want to fork Java," Johnson says. "One of the strengths of Java is it's been very unified, historically," he notes, adding that Sun has done a good job of avoiding incompatibilities.

Where Johnson sees a desire of open source community involvement with Java is not in the language but in the non-Sun open source frameworks, servers, and software that sit on top of the Java platform. For Java itself, "I'm not sure that there's really been that much growth in the community outside Sun," he adds.

"The fact that such a major platform is open-sourced, that fact that most people can grab it and play with it, do what they want with it, I think is very significant," says Patrick Curran, chairman of Java Community Process (JCP), which provides an official means to update Java technology. (Johnson, Magnusson, and Milinkovich are also JCP executive committee members.)

But Curran says he had not seen any change in the technical direction of Java as a result of the open source effort. "What it does change is the way that development is done. It provides much greater access to many more people, but I don't think it necessarily changes the technical direction because -- despite the fact that things are being done in an open source manner -- you still have a core group of people who have a very clear sense of what it is they want to do and where they want to take the platform," he says.

But Curran has noticed lately more Java specification requests (JSRs) to amend Java are being done in an open source manner.

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