Sun opens Java to Open Source community

...With viral strings attached

ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Future versions of Java for servers, PCs and mobile devices could feature APIs developed by the open source community under changes to the Java Community Process (JCP) to be announced by Sun Microsystems Inc at its annual developer conference today,

Gavin Clarke writes


Palo Alto, California-based Sun said it will modify the JCP so open source community members can submit APIs for inclusion in Java specifications. Ratification of specifications means such APIs could be implemented into products from Java licensees.

And, in a gesture of good-will, Sun will move some web services JSRs - currently navigating the JCP - to an open source license. Sun was unable to say which JSRs will be opened, but said all JSRs would eventually be moved to an open source license. JSRs are the working name of Java APIs before they graduate the JCP.

Sun is expected to announce the changes at its JavaOne conference in San Francisco, California, today. Simon Phipps, Sun's chief technology evangelist, told ComputerWire the announcement "laid to rest the issue of Java compatibility with open source." Sun has been dogged by questions over its plans to open source development of Java.

The move will tap the open source's community's famed powers of creativity to help Sun advance Java. Sun hopes open source programmers will submit APIs previously undreamed of by JCP members for potential inclusion in completed Java specifications. In a bid to further encourage open source participation, Sun will provide testing tools and financial assistance to selected non-profit organizations.

Glen Martin, Sun senior product marketing manager for the Java software division, said: "You could see a JSR for dancing wombats introduced, and the completed API may be introduced into future versions of the enterprise Java specification."

Martin said, though, Sun will exclude APIs developed under open source licenses that it considers viral - such as the controversial General Public License (GPL). The GPL can compel ISVs whose product code touches GPL code to open their own product to community scrutiny - loosing commercial advantage.

Friendly open source licensees are considered to be Apache, who assisted Sun in plans to open up the JCP process.

Sun will retain its power of veto over all Java specifications and, with the assistance of testing tools, will maintain its efforts to prevent fragmentation of Java specifications, caused by opening the JCP to members of the open source community.

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