Sun, Zend push scripting for Java

Sun Microsystems Inc. is working with a number of industry partners including Oracle Corp., Macromedia Inc. and Zend Technologies Ltd. to support the use of scripting languages in its Java platform.

Sun and Zend are leading the effort, which, if successful, will create a way for developers to write Java applications using popular scripting languages like PHP, ECMAscript and Active Server Pages.

Oracle, Macromedia, Zend and Sun began the effort on May 19 by forming a group within Sun's Java Community Process (JCP) standardization program. On June 9, the JCP's Executive Committee gave the group approval to begin work on an official Java standard, called Java Specification Request 223.

"We're really now for the first time seeing scripting and Java working together with the support of Sun," said Tim O'Reilly, chief executive officer of O'Reilly & Associates Inc., speaking of the effort at this week's JavaOne conference in San Francisco.

At its worldwide Java developer conference this week, Sun has repeatedly stated its desire to bring another 7 million Java developers into the fold. This scripting effort could move Sun closer toward that total, according to O'Reilly, who predicted that by embracing the scripting community, Sun could boost its number of Java developers by another 3 million.

The only scripting community actively involved in the effort right now, however, is the PHP community, which includes 500,000 developers, according to Zend.

Zend, which sells a commercial version of PHP, approached Sun about doing the work, and has been a major contributor to the specification, said Sun's J2SE Product Line Manager Karin Shipe. "It was very much a joint effort between Zend and Sun," she said. But Shipe does not expect Zend to be the only partner in the effort. "We hope that other scripting languages will follow suit," she said.

The new standard is a good idea, said Guido van Rossum, the creator of the Python scripting language. "Many Python afficionados need to use J2EE to earn their bread, and having the ability of using Python in that environment, for at least some of the tasks, would certainly be welcome," he said in an interview conducted via e-mail.

Now that Sun's J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) platform has gained widespread acceptance, the company is beginning to focus more on developing the Java language. Adding scripting support is part of this effort, said Shipe. "We did spend a lot of time focusing on the platform," said Shipe. "Now we're turning our focus so that we can beef up the language side of Java."

The two companies expect to produce a reference implementation, based on PHP, a specification and a Technology Compatibility Kit within a year.

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