Developers Split on Open Sourcing Java

Now that Oracle is absorbing Sun Microsystems, there mixed views on what should come of the Java Community Process (JCP). While some say Oracle should become the new steward of Java and keep the JCP much as it was, others argue that it may be time to open source this widespread language. Vishal Sikka of SAP thinks Oracle should open Java up to the world, but many argue this approach would be the death of the language.

Developers are divided on the issue of whether or not Java should be fully open sourced. On the one hand, some say handing the Java Community Process (JCP) over to the industry at large would create an open field for different implementations and features to compete and improve. Skeptics to this view say this "free market" scenario would be the death of the language and that Java needs a centralized leadership to keep it focused.

Oracle's acquisition of Sun Microsystems set off a flurry of concerns among developers about the future of the Java language. While the Java Executive Committee recommended in 2007 that the JCP be "an open, independent, vendor-neutral standards organization," it is unclear which way Oracle will lean.

"Leaving a mainstream language like Java in the hands of open source people will make Java a test bed for all kinds of desired features in a language," Rashid Jilani wrote in a comment on, "and it will be end of Java."

Many mirrored these sentiments, saying the JCP has not been a particularly closed-off body and that too fast a transition to open source would have drastic consequences on the industry.

Then there are those in the same camp as Vishal Sikka, CTO at SAP, who wrote a blog post pleading with Oracle to free Java from vendor control.

As Pagux Pagux noted, open source does not necessarily mean a lack of leadership. There are a number of successful open source efforts like PHP, Python, and Perl that are driven by a central team of some sort. Marc Schipperheyn responded, saying an Apache-managed JVM would make more sense than pure open source. He said this would provide a good model for regulating how self-interested corporations would invest their own legions of developers into shaping Java.

Although many fear what may happen if and when Oracle takes the helm, others are concerned that SAP has done nothing productive with their comments and pictures. Jess Holle thought SAP should note what specifically they want Sun to change about SE/EE rather than "throw the baby out with the bathwater." He said Sikka's post reeks of the same type of PR IBM engaged in while keeping most of its own technology proprietary. SAP has opened very little of its technology to the general IT community.

At the end of the day, centralized leadership may or may not be important to the success or failure of Java. James Watson said the wisest move might be letting Java stagnate, as there are diminishing returns for new features.

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