Java technologists debate how to fix the JCP

At the Server Side Java Symposium, Java experts discussed what can be done to help maligned standardization body

Experts in the Java realm sparred Thursday about the state of the JCP (Java Community Process), the much-maligned organization for amending official Java technology platforms.

The JCP really has not changed much since Oracle, as the new steward of principal Java technologies, took charge from Sun, said James Gosling, considered the founder of Java and a former CTO at Sun. "They actually have been pretty similar," Gosling said. Gosling, JCP chairman Patrick Curran, and JCP participant and author Reza Rahman offered perspectives on the state of the JCP and what can be done to improve it during a panel session at the Server Side Java Symposium in Las Vegas.  

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Criticism of the JCP has been going on for several years, with charges that Sun controlled the process too tightly. Now Oracle, which acquired Sun last year, is hearing the same complaints. Panelists stressed a need for transparency in the JCP. Oracle, Rahman said, might want to consider making a statement saying it is pondering moving Java over to an independent foundation, something the company had supported in 2007.

In 2009, JCP encouraged transparency, including advocating the use of open mailing lists and forums, Curran said, noting that "things are not as bad as you think they are." He pointed out that more revisions are in progress, including making expert groups publish proceedings, and that enabling prereleases of Java technologies prior to the official specification pertaining to them is under consideration.

Rahman cited the ongoing dispute over a technology compatibility kit for the Apache Software Foundation's Harmony Java implementation as an impediment for the JCP. The kit would ensure compliance with Java standards. Sun, and then Oracle have wanted Apache to accept field of use restrictions on Harmony, blocking its use on mobile devices, Apache has said. Rahman said he hopes for a resolution once Oracle's lawsuit against Google over Android is resolved, with Oracle removing any restrictions against Harmony.

"It's going to be fixed. Really, I think the real issue why Oracle couldn't change it right now is because there is an impending lawsuit," Rahman said after the panel session. That lawsuit alleges violations of Java patents in Android. Curran, an Oracle employee, declined to comment on how Oracle might proceed on the Harmony matter.

Gosling cited politics as impacting the JCP, with participants having allegiances to their corporations and pushing their own company's technologies. "That kind of rubbish just gets awful," Gosling said.

Panelists also noted Oracle's dominance when it comes to being in charge of Java Specification Requests, which are formal proposals to amend Java in specific areas. About 26 out of 46 JSRs in progress are led by Oracle, Curran said. "It's perhaps inevitable that a significant portion will be led by Oracle," although the number is skewed too high, Curran said. Panelists noted it is a lot of work to shepherd these specifications through the process. Some had been led by companies since acquired by Oracle, Curran said. Gosling, who left Oracle shortly after it acquired Sun, responded, "The only way to fix it is for Oracle to stop acquiring companies."

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