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You Owe Me Some Kind of Love

Posted by editor on July 2, 2008 at 6:35 AM PDT

Seriously, Linux community, what does it take?

Surely, many of you saw the Slashdot item last week, Does an Open Java Really Matter, which closed with the parting shot:

Since Java itself never mattered except to sell books, I still don't see why opening it matters.

That's cheap and trite -- even for Slashdot -- and a lot of you let them know it (I did, too). But let's set aside the heat and see if there's any light. The source of the Slashdot article was Neil McAllister's InfoWorld blog Java is free at last. Now what? Discussing IcedTea's passing of the JCK, he wonders what's next for Java. "In terms of raw popularity, it's hard to argue that Java has been anything but a runaway success," he writes, seemingly refuting CmdrTaco's cheap shot in advance, but then goes on to wonder if the open-source community, particularly those in the Linux community, will have a change of heart:

The Linux community, in particular, has long viewed Java with ambivalence. Sun makes prepackaged binaries of the JDK available to Linux users at no charge, but that simply isn't good enough for Linux distributions that bundle only software that's available under a Free Software license, such as Debian and the Red Hat-sponsored Fedora project.

Um, hello, the whole point of OpenJDK and IcedTea is that Java, largely built atop Sun's implementation, is now available under the GPL. Seriously, Linux community, what does it take to satisfy you?

McAllister's point is that the developer tool marketplace is different today than it was when Java was born. "Today, RIAs (rich Internet applications) are all the rage, but the buzz isn't about applets and JavaBeans; it's about JavaScript, Flash, and Ruby on Rails. Google is the leading Internet company, and the language of choice for its application platform isn't Java, but Python."

Well, great. We've got a dozen different scripting langauges for writing webapp back-ends (most, if not all, of which also run on the JVM), a completely proprietary VM (Flash) to run in the browser, and for thick apps on the small devices we've got the proprietary iPhone SDK and the still-vaporous Android. And in some people's eyes, all this is preferable to GPL Java? Really?