San Francisco -- Should Java be available under an open source format? The debate is raging this week at the 2004 JavaOne conference here.
One day after BEA Systems endorsed an open source stance for Java 2 Standard Edition (J2SE), a panel session at the show Thursday offered mixed views from varying interests. Endorsing an open source paradigm for Java were panelists including IBM Vice President Rod Smith, author of a February open letter urging an open source path for Java; and Brian Behlendorf, who serves on the board of directors of the open source Apache Software Foundation.
Among those opposing the move were James Gosling, who holds several titles at Sun including CTO of the company’s Java Development Platform and Tools group; Sun’s Rob Gingell, vice president and Fellow at the company; and James Governor, principal analyst and founder of Redmonk.
Currently, Sun requires that projects officially based on Java be certified as compatible with the Java specification. Amendments to Java must go through Java Community Process (JCP) procedures. Open source advocates seek a more freeform path for Java.
Proponents stressed the possibilities that could emerge for Java technology through open sourcing. Behlendorf pleaded for open source implementations of Java specifications, with the caveat that they cannot claim compliance with the Java specification until passing Java Technology Compatibility Kit (TCK) tests.
“Open source processes tend to be some of the best ways to spread ubiquity,” Behlendorf said.
“Creating derivative works that don’t at times implement the complete specification is a natural part of any open source process,” he added.
But Gingell questioned what exactly would be gained through open sourcing of Java.
“Really, what I ask people is, if open source is the answer, please tell me the problem,” Gingell said.
He vowed that compatibility must be maintained in Java, something that Sun argues it is able to ascertain by being the steward over Java, which Sun invented. Java programs, Gingell said, “will not be lied to by things claiming to be Java.”
Governor that maybe Sun’s shepherding of Java is not a bad idea. “It seems to me that Sun’s stewardship of the JCP may be the worst governance model but it’s the best one we’ve tried,” Governor said, borrowing from a comment he said Winston Churchill had made about democracy.
Panelist Justin Shaffer, director of operations for Major League Baseball Advanced Media, also argued for the status quo. “Why take something that’s working very well for many businesses today and put it at risk,” he asked, eliciting applause from many in the crowd.
A lot of innovation is happening in the Java and open source worlds, IBM's Smith said. “I think going forward, we want to see innovation happen at a more rapid pace,” he said, advocating more of an open source path for Java.
Smith said having an open source sharing of Java 2 Standard Edition (J2SE) would lower the cost of integration and help technologies get to market faster.
Gosling countered that Java information bases already are published in the public domain. “[Sharing] happens already. All the bug databases are published,” for example, he said.
“You can find every last wart that everybody has ever found,” pertaining to Java, he said.
“You can download the full sources of J2SE,” he said.