The unwritten story of open source java
What Sun finally did this week by releasing Java under GPL was a historic event. Using the GPL instead of yet another Sun license certainly makes adoption that much easier. But why did it take so long and why the change now?
I left Sun in 2004 after 8 fun years at Javasoft. Open Source Java was a annual discussion at Sun and in many conversations with open source advocates and companies. Many of the engineers I knew were for open sourcing Java as long as the motivation wasn't just to simply reduce headcount in engineering. However each proposal got shot down somewhere in the approval process. There were theories on how, who, why but ultimately the result was the same, at best a small compromise in the license but still no open source Java.
However competition is good, in the same way that C# ultimately made Sun continue to invest heavily in Java, the continued investment in projects like Harmony were always on the radar. In addition having a technical relationship with the IBM Java team meant that IBM used every opportunity to request Sun open source Java as every JSR lead was reminded as the defacto IBM comment in the JSR approval process was that IBM request a change in the license
Danese Cooper decided to work out the full timeline of open source Java The People Who Brought You FOSS Java as you can see its been a fairly long road and involved many people. Sun kept many communities involved including the Java champions which I have to give them full credit for, although it would have been even nicer if we could have dropped the NDA!
So in closing, this is a great week, could have Java been open sourced earlier, yes but even late in Java's timeline it could be the real jolt that desktop Java needs. Do I think Java will fork?, no, maybe slightly, but nothing that would affect companies that standardize on a version anyhow.
Oh and Dalibor, I really owe you that beer now!