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A change of heart on the issue of open sourcing Java

Posted by eitan on October 7, 2004 at 8:09 AM PDT

In the weeks after Eric Raymond's famous open letter to Sun MicroSystems on the topic of open sourcing Java, I took the position of being a strong advocate of this request. Several months have now passed and I've had a change of heart.

As much as one would like to see a piece of software open sourced, we must not forget that Java does not belong to us. Specifically, it belongs to its owner, Sun MicroSystems. Sun MicroSystems should not be pressured to open source anything. Of course, Sun is always welcome to open source whatever codebase it wishes to, but that is a decision for Sun to make. We should not think negatively of Sun (or anyone) for choosing other paths. As far as I know, this way of thinking is congruent with open source culture.

Put yourself in their shoes: you've been working for years on an important piece of software that gives you great pride. You've been fair and open (and successful) and have attracted a significant community. Now that community comes to you and says: open source it! It belongs to all of us! I beg to differ. It does not.

I still believe that the open source "way" of managing projects is its key success ingredient (irrespective of whether or not the projects are open source). And I still believe that anyone who decides to adopt this method is likely to see a more rapid adoption and evolution of its software products.

We, as a community, should commend Sun for being as open and inclusive as they have been up until now.

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