Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Java Programming

Gosling on Opening Java 453

Posted by michael
from the if-you-love-something-let-it-go dept.
An anonymous reader writes "It sounds like James Gosling's nudging Sun closer and closer toward open-sourcing Java, as requested variously by IBM, Eric S. Raymond, and Richard Stallman, though not by JBoss's Marc Fleury. 'Developers value Java's cross platform interoperability and reliability,' Gosling writes, adding 'If we do something to make Java even more open-source than it is already, having safeguards to protect the developer community will be something we pay a lot of attention to.' Surprisingly, 'the creator of the Java programming language,' as Sun usually calls him, seems to be at odds on this issue with his own CEO, Scott McNealy. So, who should have custody of the child, the father...or the boss?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Gosling on Opening Java

Comments Filter:
  • Well, legally... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 01, 2004 @06:21PM (#9030239)
    The boss. They paid him for his work, so it is there's to do with as they please.
    • Actually, this was what the copyright ;aws were designed for. Just because you pay someone for something does not mean you own all rights to it. Think of every closed source program ever. The employee might still own it, though it is rare an employee will copyright it as opposed to the company doing it. Also, many employees have to sign a contract to say that anything they produce belongs to the company.
      • Re:Well, legally... (Score:5, Informative)

        by generic-man (33649) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @06:43PM (#9030390) Homepage Journal
        Copyright law defines something as a work for hire [music-law.com] if it was produced by an individual at the request of a company. All rights to a work for hire are retained by the company who paid for the work to be created.

        Most of the employee contracts are supplemental to this definition. Many companies claim all rights to works created by employees without the explicit request of the company, as well.
      • by Feren (97175) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @06:52PM (#9030446)
        [Also, many employees have to sign a contract to say that anything they produce belongs to the company.]

        It's been standard operating procedure for years for most companies to have any employee who might even touch programming sign such a waiver/contract that gives all rights to the employer. Even some of the higher education systems (what we traditionally viewed as a bastion of free innovation because of projects like those put out by Berkely, etc) are taking on this practice. It's gotten to be a very dog-eat-dog world out there and everyone's looking to keep their cards close to the vest in hopes of gaining an edge over their competitors.

        On the other hand it's generally a smart move on the employer's part to weigh the advice of the creator when they're about to do something with the project that the creator feels strongly about. They may not agree and ultimately they may not act on the employee's advice, but it's good form and wise business practice to at least listen to his or her opinion. Every once in a while these folks have an idea what they're talking about and it makes the employee feel as if his input is valued, meaning the company is less likely to lose a valuable resource.

        • Re:Well, legally... (Score:5, Informative)

          by persaud (304710) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @08:42PM (#9031076)
          Depends on state employment law. California is an at-will employment [elinfonet.com] state, which means your employer has no ownership of work produced on your own equipment and your own time (you of course have to honor confidentiality and non-compete agreements).

          This means you can be fired at any time or quit at any time. It also permits switching between headhunters whose contracts explicitly prohibit such switching. State law trumps the letter of any contract. But maintaining the spirit of fair employment contracts is in the interest of all parties.
      • Re:Well, legally... (Score:5, Informative)

        by xero314 (722674) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @09:08PM (#9031192)
        Contrary to popular belief there does not need to a contract in place for most works create by employees, at the request of an employer. Here is a quote from the U.S. Copyright Office, which does cover Sun's Java Copyrights.

        • In the case of works made for hire, the employer and not the employee is considered to be the author. Section 101 of the copyright law defines a "work made for hire" as:
        • * (1) a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment;

        To read more go to http://www.copyright.gov/ [copyright.gov]
    • by ron_ivi (607351) <sdotno@@@cheapcomplexdevices...com> on Saturday May 01, 2004 @07:29PM (#9030659)
      Parent wrote: "The boss. They paid him for his work, so it is there's to do with as they please."

      Which boss? And no, bosses can't always "do as they please" (Tyco). They have fiduciary responsibilities to make responsible decisions.

      Also, bosses can delegate authority.
      Just as the shareholders delegates some responsibility to the board, and
      just as the board deligates some responsibility to the executives,
      a high-level exec delegates some responsibility to middle level execs.

      Ultimatelly, they should be accountable to the shareholders - but where the chain of deletaing authority for software licensing stops probably depends on the management chain in place. There's no reason why this decision couldn't be delegated to a software-strategy person in some companies and be a board-level decision in others.

      IMHO a CEO _should_ delegate domain-specific decisions to the most qualified person (and I'm just speaking hypothetically, not about java/gpl now). Not sure about "Legally", though - somone else will say if a CEO has a fiduciary responsibility to delegate such decisions or not.

    • Re:Well, legally... (Score:3, Informative)

      by cyborch (524661)

      ...it is there's...

      there != their [slashdot.org]

  • by JamesP (688957)
    Please enlighten me? Why GPL Java?

    Java is pretty good right now.
    • Re:Why open Java? (Score:5, Informative)

      by mindriot (96208) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @07:25PM (#9030631)
      Because it would be one hell of a Free software killer application. There's so many people using Java already, and Stallman's point against Java right now is that when writing code in Java (which many do simply because it's easy and beautiful to write in Java), you create dependencies to non-Free software making it practically impossible to run an entirely Free system using such dependent Free software.

      Consider this: if Java were Free, it could easily be the world's most used piece of Free software (before you say Apache or something, let's say 'most used by private persons')

      You might be a troll and I did bite, but it was just too good an opportunity to point out what Freeing Java could mean.
      • Re:Why open Java? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by njcoder (657816)
        Ok, so you've pointed out how this benefits the Free software community. How would this benefit Sun?

        There is nothing stopping people in the Free software community from using, Java now.

        • Re:Why open Java? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by killjoe (766577) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @03:55AM (#9032464)
          Let me.

          It would help propagate java further by having it included by default in every single linux distribution.

          The OSScommunity could fix some of the long standing bugs in teh JVM. The bug parade also include tons of feature requests which although very popular are not important to sun. If Java was open sourced these feature requests would be implemented and make java a better platform.

          They could save money that they spending on java development now.

          Last but not least. It would prevent java from becoming another cobol. Java is facing heavy competition from .NET. In a year or so parrot will come out of beta and preliminary results show that it will be faster then the JVM. If parrot fulfills it's promise (and there is no reason to think that it won't) you'll get all the advantages of the JVM while being able to use perl or python.

          Parrot has the potential to be a very disruptive development for java. Sun needs to be proactive about defending against it and .NET/mono. Right now they are simply pretending that there is no threat and they can go along like they always have.
    • Re:Why open Java? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JustinXB (756624) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @07:28PM (#9030646)
      I don't believe bringing Java under an open source license would advance it any way, shape, or form.

      Yes, there be ports to other platforms (I'd love to see Java on *BSD). Yes, there'd be performance patches and probably security patches. But with this comes the down side to all open source projects: Fragmentation.

      One of Javas goals is to provide compile-once-run-anywhere. At the moment, it does a decent job of doing this. Other platforms do this better (Read: Inferno) but Java is trying. With fragmentation, compile-once-run-anywhere disappears and would be impossible to bring back.

      Let Sun has Solaris and Java. Stop trying to force them to open source their software. They already are the second largest contributor of open source software, the first being Berkeley.

      • Re:Why open Java? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Ogerman (136333) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @09:00PM (#9031154)
        Yes, there be ports to other platforms (I'd love to see Java on *BSD). Yes, there'd be performance patches and probably security patches. But with this comes the down side to all open source projects: Fragmentation.

        Open Source fragmentation is a myth largely propagated a certain proprietary vendor's FUD campaign. Successful open source projects simply do not fork. Why? Because there's no interest and it's way too difficult with large scale software. There is one GNOME, one KDE, one Apache, one Linux kernel, one GNU Compiler Colection, one OpenOffice, etc. Similarly, an Open Source Java would be a large project with so much momentum that any unlikely attempts to fork would be rapidly ignored and wither away. Not to mention Sun would still hold the Java trademark..

        One of Javas goals is to provide compile-once-run-anywhere. At the moment, it does a decent job of doing this. Other platforms do this better (Read: Inferno) but Java is trying. With fragmentation, compile-once-run-anywhere disappears and would be impossible to bring back.

        Wrong again. Open Source developers are terrifically anal about sticking to standards. You don't see a dozen different C compilers each with a slightly different dialect do you? You don't see KHTML or Mozilla trying to extend web standards do you? Even more obvious: You don't see the existing clean-room Open Source Java projects deviating from Sun's specifications do you? -- and they're not even under legal obligation!! Fact is, an Open Source Java is the only way WORA can ever hope to fully live up to its promise. (btw, that's Write Once, not Compile.. minor correction) Three reasons: 1.) more ports 2.) better quality control 3.) less Java implementations floating about, whether proprietary or open.

        Let Sun has Solaris and Java. Stop trying to force them to open source their software.

        Nobody's trying to force Sun to do anything. They're simply asking because it would be mutually beneficial.
        • Re:Why open Java? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by JustinXB (756624) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @09:37PM (#9031326)
          Open Source fragmentation is a myth largely propagated a certain proprietary vendor's FUD campaign. Successful open source projects simply do not fork. Why? Because there's no interest and it's way too difficult with large scale software. There is one GNOME, one KDE, one Apache, one Linux kernel, one GNU Compiler Colection, one OpenOffice, etc. Similarly, an Open Source Java would be a large project with so much momentum that any unlikely attempts to fork would be rapidly ignored and wither away. Not to mention Sun would still hold the Java trademark..
          The Linux itself is fragmented across distros. Try taking a Red Hat binary to SuSE, there will be trouble.

          There are now 3 projects who will use the X windows standards, and I can tell you there will be fragmentation. Each will try to improve it somehow and bye bye compatibilty.

          There may be one GNOME and one KDE, but each use a different GUI toolkit resulting in the same effect as fragmentation.

          Wrong again. Open Source developers are terrifically anal about sticking to standards. You don't see a dozen different C compilers each with a slightly different dialect do you? You don't see KHTML or Mozilla trying to extend web standards do you? Even more obvious: You don't see the existing clean-room Open Source Java projects deviating from Sun's specifications do you? -- and they're not even under legal obligation!! Fact is, an Open Source Java is the only way WORA can ever hope to fully live up to its promise. (btw, that's Write Once, not Compile.. minor correction) Three reasons: 1.) more ports 2.) better quality control 3.) less Java implementations floating about, whether proprietary or open.
          GCC has it's own extensions, as does the GNU C library. Same goes for gmake. You can't compile software that use these extensions on Solaris using native compilers.
          Nobody's trying to force Sun to do anything. They're simply asking because it would be mutually beneficial.
          No, it would only hurt Sun and Java.
          • Re:Why open Java? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Ogerman (136333) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @10:18PM (#9031509)
            The Linux itself is fragmented across distros. Try taking a Red Hat binary to SuSE, there will be trouble.

            This is an improper example. Try taking some C source and compile it on both RedHat and SuSE -- same results. Fragmentation would be if RedHat or SuSE modified the Linux kernel or supporting GNU software so much that code would need significantly re-written to work.

            There are now 3 projects who will use the X windows standards, and I can tell you there will be fragmentation. Each will try to improve it somehow and bye bye compatibilty.

            Not even close. Read this: http://www.xouvert.org/faq.html#2.1 It should be especially noted the strong emphasis on sticking to standards. There are many X11 implementations and they are very much compatible, though some are at different levels of specification advancement.

            There may be one GNOME and one KDE, but each use a different GUI toolkit resulting in the same effect as fragmentation.

            This is an example of diversity, not fragmentation of an original standard. Would you say that there should only be one programming language? I should hope not. Each has its advantages. It should be noted, of course, that there is a growing movement to harmonize GNOME and KDE, but that's another topic of discussion.

            GCC has it's own extensions, as does the GNU C library. Same goes for gmake. You can't compile software that use these extensions on Solaris using native compilers.

            It can be easily argued that the only reason C compilers have extensions like this is because there does not exist as active a standards body as say, W3C or SCP, to recommend changes before they are tried experimentally. There are also different ISO C versions. I believe some of the GNU C "extensions" are actually part of the C99 ISO spec. Solaris's native compilers may be using an older spec, but I'm not familiar. Also, you can use the -pedantic option with gcc and it will warn you of any code that uses extensions beyond C89. There is little to make me believe a similar scenario will exist with Open Source Java. The industry has learned since C/C++ the value of creating standards early and then sticking with them. As I said, Open Source developers tend not to deviate when solid standards exist. Java is a solid standard.

            No, it would only hurt Sun and Java.

            How much have GNU ClassPath and the various open JVM's hurt Sun and Java? And how much have they deviated from Java specifications? The answer to both is: not at all. If Sun relaxed licensing on code for their implementations, it would only serve to promote their own over the clean-room versions.
        • Re:Why open Java? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by evilWurst (96042) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @10:17PM (#9031506) Journal
          "Open Source fragmentation is a myth largely propagated a certain proprietary vendor's FUD campaign"

          Yes. A certain vendor that did itself try to fork Java, and now has a competing product that is extremely similar to Java. If Java went GPL, this company would not hesitate to muck around with it, just because they can, and the company has a history of doing anything it can to 'win'.

          "Successful open source projects simply do not fork."

          Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I would not expect Java to fork in the classic sense of the word (except the version that one particular company would make), but look at Linux as a whole; multiple distros out there, by companies, by individuals, by governments. That kind of "forking" alone would make it more difficult for WORA with Java; it'd increase the amount of tweaking neccessary. Every distro tweaking the JVM a little differently than the others... code then running great on some and flakey on others... well, maybe that's already true. Why make it worse, though?

          And what about BSD? I'd call that successful, and it has most definitely forked. Even its forks have forked. BSD is totally forked! :) I could see the same easily happening with Java; different bright folks wanting to take it in different directions, without a leader, ending up disagreeing too strongly and going it alone. Would Sun and IBM and Microsoft and Oracle and so on always agree on the next level to take Java to? I doubt that.

          For the record, I'm undecided about the opening-up of Java. I like the language, and it's the one I use the most. I'm not as against the idea as I may sound in this post.
          • Re:Why open Java? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Ogerman (136333) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @10:57PM (#9031634)
            Yes. A certain vendor that did itself try to fork Java, and now has a competing product that is extremely similar to Java.

            What this proves is that it doesn't take Sun Open Sourcing their own implementation for a fork to occur! And yet, the existing Open Source implementations of "Java" are not forking from the spec.

            If Java went GPL, this company would not hesitate to muck around with it, just because they can, and the company has a history of doing anything it can to 'win'.

            How exactly could they muck around with a GPL (or similarly licensed) Sun Java to win? They couldn't release proprietary versions. They couldn't make changes without telling everyone. They couldn't completely fork the code and still call it Java (Sun trademark). And they don't even need Java anymore since they have .NET and CLR. MS is really out of this picture. Oh, one more thing: they won't touch anything GPL with a ten foot pole because that would only further legitimize it to those on the fence.

            Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I would not expect Java to fork in the classic sense of the word (except the version that one particular company would make), but look at Linux as a whole; multiple distros out there, by companies, by individuals, by governments. That kind of "forking" alone would make it more difficult for WORA with Java; it'd increase the amount of tweaking neccessary. Every distro tweaking the JVM a little differently than the others... code then running great on some and flakey on others...

            Linux distros are not a proper comparison because they are a conglomeration of very diverse software. Here, we're only about talking the JVM and a set of libraries. There's no incentive to fork and any 'tweaking' would only be within the implementation of the specs. With Sun still holding the trademark, they would still be the sole source of endorsement. So "Bob's J*** Derivative" could fork and tweak to heck and back, but typically only experimenters would use it. And if they came up with something really great that SCP approved of.. cool! roll it back into the official codebase that normal people use.

            well, maybe that's already true. Why make it worse, though?

            Because there's virtually nothing to lose and a lot to potentially gain.

            I could see the same easily happening with Java; different bright folks wanting to take it in different directions, without a leader, ending up disagreeing too strongly and going it alone. Would Sun and IBM and Microsoft and Oracle and so on always agree on the next level to take Java to? I doubt that.

            Sun would still be a strong leader, even if they Open Sourced their implementations. Weak leadership or poor quality is what encourages forks. As for IBM and Oracle contributing, that's what the SCP is for. It works and is well established. Why would anyone want to diverge? All that would do is make them look bad.

            For the record, I'm undecided about the opening-up of Java.

            Java is already being opened-up. (http://www.kaffe.org/links.shtml) It's just a matter of how long that takes. If Sun helped out, it would happen a lot sooner and dramatically increase their influence over the whole 'open Java' scene.
    • Re:Why open Java? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by T-Ranger (10520)
      Open Source and GPL have very little to do with each other. GPLing something would Open Source it, but the inverse is not necessaraly true. I think that there is exactly one person who thinks that Java should be GPLd.
      • Re:Why open Java? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Ogerman (136333) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @08:29PM (#9031013)
        I think that there is exactly one person who thinks that Java should be GPLd.

        As opposed to what other license? (L)GPL would probably be the best choice for Sun because it ensures that people cannot create proprietary forks (Microsoft anyone?). BSD or similar less freedom-guaranteeing licenses would be an awful choice. And if you think Java shouldn't be open source at all, well.. you're just an idiot. It's going to happen whether Sun wants it to or not. This whole discussion is only a question of whether they remain a player.
    • it's not about GPL (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hak1du (761835)
      Please enlighten me? Why GPL Java?

      That question itself points out a core problem with Java: it isn't a standard, it is just an implementation: Sun's implementation (and its derivatives: IBM, Blackdown, Apple). None of the implementations (gc, kaffe, waba) that don't derive from Sun's are even close to being compatible.

      Before we can talk about Sun open sourcing their Java implementation, we have to talk about making Java an open standard. Right now, it is further away from that goal than even Microsoft
    • Re:Why open Java? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by doc modulo (568776)
      Satisfying the Open Source community is the only logical way to go for Sun.

      Sun is a hardware company, they sell high-price, high quality servers. They sell their own processors which are incompatible with Intel.

      To make everyone compatible with their servers they release the Java platform out into the world. Now everyone can run their programs on Sun hardware and hardware sales increase. As far as I know they don't make a lot of money out of software sales compared to their hardware sales.

      So their strateg
    • Re:Why open Java? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nathanh (1214)

      Please enlighten me? Why GPL Java? Java is pretty good right now.

      A GPL Java might become a standard part of the Linux desktop (really GNOME/KDE desktop). Right now it doesn't even rate on the meter.

      I can appreciate Sun's position. They want to avoid a fork and the current Java license was a good attempt. Unfortunately it's too restrictive for most Linux distros. Oh sure, I can install a free JVM like Kaffe or Jikes but nobody seriously thinks they're "there yet". And the majority of value in Java i

  • by modifried (605582) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @06:23PM (#9030252) Homepage
    So, who should have custody of the child, the father...or the boss?

    Boss gets it on the weekends, father gets it during the week.
  • by all your mwbassguy a (720029) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @06:24PM (#9030261) Homepage
    ...we need java to be open source, so we can fix all the flaws he left in it. i mean, no goto?!
    • by malakhi (318136)
      goto statements in Java are virtually useless. There are other, better ways to accomplish anything a goto statement would be used for in Java (break and continue come to mind Remember, Java is not C or C++. It has it's own way of doing things. That's why we use Java. If we tried to "fix" everything C/C++ developers thought was "wrong" with it, we'd just have C all over again.

      Thanks, but no thanks. I'll stick with my "evil" non-GPL Java.
    • by woodhouse (625329)
      Well I suppose this is supposed to be funny, but actually, the idea that goto is always evil is just wrong. There are a few occasions when it's justified:

      Try finding a better way to break out of an inner loop. For example:

      for (int i=0;i<n;i++)

      for (int j=0;j<m;j++)

      if (blah[i][j]==1) goto doublebreak;

      doublebreak: ...

      To exit from a function, while cleaning up properly afterwards:
      if (error) goto error;
      ...
      if (anotherError) goto error;
      ...
      error:
      close(files);
      delete stuff;
      return -

  • Java is not open-source at all [gnu.org].

    (Pre-emptive response to the argumentative sorts who point out the various GNU Java projects: These are not "Java proper". Java is a Sun product, and it is not open-sourced.)
    • RTFA, my friend (Score:5, Insightful)

      by melquiades (314628) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @07:41PM (#9030745) Homepage
      <flaimbait>Stallman is less open minded than Java is open source.</flaimbait>

      OK, here's the deal with the Java source code: You can get it. You can modify it. You can redistribute it.

      BUT...

      It has to pass Sun's compatibility tests.

      OK, so yes, I can see how an ideologue like RMS would lump Sun's Java implementation into the same category as closed-source software. But really, you do have quite a lot of freedom with Java. It's just that Sun (and the Java community, myself included) are very concerned about compability: cross-platform dependability is one of Java's must important features, and forking is a big concern. (Sun was already bitten once by Microsoft making an incompatible "Java" and basically wreaking havoc on the client Java market for years.) Just look at all the crap that goes into the typical C/C++ project's ./configure.sh to see why Sun is so anal about this!

      Gosling explains this well in the article (for those who actually read it...).

      On top of all that, Java != Sun's implementation of Java. Everything in Java is determined by a spec -- the language, the runtime, the libraries, everything. If Sun's requirement that you pass their test suite is too restrictive, just write your own damn implementation of the specs. Yes, I know that's a lot of work. Boo hoo hoo.

      JessLeah is totally wrong on this point: the reason that the GNU Java projects are not "Java proper" is not that Sun didn't make them, but that they are immature and don't completely implement that Java spec. I think this may help explain why RMS is so sore (and unfair) on this point: GNU Java kind of sucks, even after many years of work, his "free software" baby isn't winning in the Java world, and nobody really cares except GNU ... so there's a bit of sour grapes.
      • Re:RTFA, my friend (Score:3, Interesting)

        by njcoder (657816)

        "JessLeah is totally wrong on this point: the reason that the GNU Java projects are not "Java proper" is not that Sun didn't make them, but that they are immature and don't completely implement that Java spec. I think this may help explain why RMS is so sore (and unfair) on this point: GNU Java kind of sucks, even after many years of work, his "free software" baby isn't winning in the Java world, and nobody really cares except GNU ... so there's a bit of sour grapes."

        I'm trying to find a sound file of a

  • wow! (Score:4, Funny)

    by narkotix (576944) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @06:29PM (#9030288)
    first maybe solaris....now maybe java...whats next...open source star office??? oh wait..
    • Solaris & Java (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Alan Cox (27532) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @07:53PM (#9030810) Homepage
      Except that it seems "Solaris maybe, especially if we can knock Red Hat, Java unlikely even though its creator gets it".

      Sun need to keep a tight rein on the java name, and maybe the standard process. You want it to be called Java, you make it pass the test suite. That bit makes sense, although its hard to take too seriously given all the things out there like vnc java versiosn "patched to work with macos", "patched to work with ie5" etc.

      What matters is that a JVM+class library called "Java" or "J2EE" etc behave in the defined way. Just as "Posix" and "LSB" matter. Implementation, reference code, no reason that can't be truely open.

      In the Sun case the fact some of the interface specs are secret for tests for some of the extensions is not umm helpful. Imagine C++ programming where you had to sign an NDA to open a file 8)
  • by spellraiser (764337) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @06:29PM (#9030293) Journal

    Question from the artice:

    2. "Some have asked what IBM would get if Java were open-sourced: doesn't IBM already have the source?"

    Gosling's answer: Again yes, they do have the source. It's also true that anyone can get the source. The major restriction is that if folks want to redistrubute their changes, they have to pass the test suite. Which means that about the only thing that they could get from liberalization is to be able to skip testing.

    So it doesn't seem to be such a big issue after all. The source is already available, and all that is required to change it and redistribute it is to pass a standard suite of tests. Now, call me crazy, but I think that's not A Bad Thing. This restriction is what helps Java to be uniform and platform-independent.

    The benefits of making Java fully open source therefore seem overrated. Isn't the availablity of the source most important? Or perhaps I'm misunderstanding something ...

    • by Chalybeous (728116) <chalybeousNO@SPAMyahoo.co.uk> on Saturday May 01, 2004 @06:38PM (#9030354) Homepage Journal
      The source is already available, and all that is required to change it and redistribute it is to pass a standard suite of tests.

      I agree with the parent. I'm not 100% clued up on such technical matters, but it seems to me that if Java were opensourced, suddenly every developer would implement their favourite functions and fixes, and it could risk losing its crossplatform compatibility.
      As it stands, I understand that Sun is (as the parent quotes) pretty liberal with its Java policy. Would it be worth creating potentially problematic issues by changing this policy to make Java opensource?
      It seems sensible, at least to me, to keep Java as it stands with regard to source changes, or we'll end up having Joe's Java, MSJava, Java for Nokia Mobile Phones, Java Reloaded... all built off the same core, but all implementing the same thing different ways, possibly with platform dependence or crosscompilation compatibility issues.
      I'm guessing that Sun's "standard suite of tests" for additions/changes to Java is designed to prevent this kind of branching, and is (in a multi-OS, infinite-diversity-of-hardware-combinations world) A Very Good Thing.

      Opinions, developer-type /.ers?
    • by Wesley Felter (138342) <wesley@felter.org> on Saturday May 01, 2004 @07:14PM (#9030568) Homepage
      One thing Gosling neglects to mention is that it costs tens of thousands of dollars to get access to the test suite.

      While compatibility is great, a major advantage of open source is the ability for people to make and distribute experimental changes (after all, new features often start out as experiments).

      While anyone can get the source code to Sun's VM, there is concern that looking at the code taints you for life, unlike open source.
  • by ItMustBeEsoteric (732632) <ryangilbert@ g m ail.com> on Saturday May 01, 2004 @06:30PM (#9030297)
    "If we do something to make Java even more open-source than it is already"

    Is it even possible for something to be partially open source? As far as I've always been concerned, something either is or it is not.

    I know someone will definitely say "well, X part of Y OS is open source, while the OS isn't" but Java isn't an OS. Even in that case, let's use OS X. Are its Darwin portions open source? Well, yeah. I doubt we'll argue that? Will any /.-er in their right mind say OS X is open source?

    Hell no. And I love my Macs.
  • by Curtman (556920) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @06:32PM (#9030315)
    This sounds a lot like pkware's strategy with DCL [pkware.com]. They actually tried to tell me I should use it because its patented. I told them it's surprising that we'd even consider using it in spite of it being patented.
  • What's important is (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @06:33PM (#9030318)
    that they open-source it before Sun tanks, or before some nasty company takes control of it. In short, they ought to do like Netscape did, and I'm sure even McNealy would rather do that than any other alternative...
    • by David Hume (200499) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @06:48PM (#9030424) Homepage

      What's important is that they open-source it before Sun tanks, or before some nasty company takes control of it. In short, they ought to do like Netscape did, and I'm sure even McNealy would rather do that than any other alternative...


      Well, at least as long as they don't admit to doing so publicly. :) Can you say, "Shareholder lawsuit for waste of, or giving away, corporate assets?" I knew you could. :)

      Yes, your Honor, we decided to essentially give away our valuable intellectual property for no consideration (i.e., nothing in return) before some "nasty company" could either: (a) buy the property; or (b) pay more for Sun's stock based on Sun's owndership of the property. NO, we wouldn't want that! Not if it meant Microsoft might get the property. Similarly, we couldn't possibly take the risk that MS would buy the asset out of bankruptcy, thereby enriching our creditors and/or stockholders.

  • in the real world all that matters is who DOES have custody, which is essentially guaranteed to be the boss...
  • Gosling??? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 01, 2004 @06:35PM (#9030330)
    Worth noting that Gosling is the one who produced the first non-free version of emacs, which was a direct motivation for RMS to produce the GPL!

    He also produced NeWS which was superior to X in almost every way... except... it wasn't open either!

    I've always thought that Java will become open source over Gosling's cold dead body, but maybe he'll prove me wrong.
  • by big tex (15917) <torsionality&gmail,com> on Saturday May 01, 2004 @06:35PM (#9030332)
    McNealy gets Ja, and Gosling gets Va.

    Now that's a fork.
  • by creidieki (110659) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @06:42PM (#9030380) Journal
    I'm very confused by both the article from Gosling and the discussion here.

    "Java" is a programming language, right? Programming langagues doesn't have source code, they have specifications. Are they talking about open-sourcing a specific compiler for Java? Or are they talking about releasing or loosening license restrictions on the specifications for the language?
    • Don't forget that there's a whole run-time library associated with Java. You have the language specifications, of course, but there's also all the classes that are coming with the JRE already. These are available in source code within the Java SDK, but under a more restrictive license. And then there's also, of course, the compiler itself, the virtual machine, and tools like javadoc. OK, there's kaffe [kaffe.org], for instance, but they're not completely there yet (read their What is Kaffe not? section on the title pa

  • From the article:
    "Developers value Java's cross platform interoperability and reliability. They're afraid that if Java is open-sourced then someone will try to fragment the community by creating incompatible versions of Java and ignore the community process, just like Microsoft did. Microsoft did a lot of damage to the community and many developers strongly do not want that to happen again."

    Microsoft is one of a handful of entities in a strong enough position to be able to do a lot of damage to the commu

  • by njcoder (657816) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @06:45PM (#9030397)
    Basically, they want to be able to have more control of it and Sun, or anyone else to have less.

    The reason for this is that IBM is the big money maker in the Java/J2EE Space. It is fighting strong competition from BEA and now JBoss, maybe soon to be Jonas and Geronimo.

    I think it's a credit to Sun that while they help build and manage the standards, they are not the big players providing the solutions that are being sold in that space.

    They would like to sell more of their Java middleware components and are working towards it but they are not dependant on that to make (lose) money. The fact that they haven't made changes to the specification to favor their products over any one else's products speaks volumes. They have said they were going to open the standards so that others may benefit and everyone will compete on other merits while offering a lot of common features. The market proves they've kept their word.

    I don't see IBM doing the same. Look at Mark Fluery's comments on how IBM forked a version of Axis back into a proprietary product. They did the same with other products they worked on. JetSpeed I believe is one.

    They get the open source developers to help build the application, help people get buy in, then they take the codebase in house and work on it from there making improvements and selling it for mucho dinero.

    That's not a bad thing, and is allowed under the license. The OS community has a good base to start building based on the initial investment by IBM. It's just something that isn't acknowledged by others.

    With the JCP, the new arrangements with the Apache Group, Java keeps getting more and more open (with a little 'o').

    Sun IS doing good things with Java and for the java developer community. They are making it easier for people to contribute back to java. Sun has a lot of things it needs to do in other areas but they really are doing a good job with Java. If it ain't broke why fix it?

    One of the reasons's Java/J2EE is doing so well is because of the competition in the marketplace. Different vendors bring different things to market. Some wind up becoming standards, some get coppied from others. It works out to the advantage of the user community who relies on these different technologies to do their jobs.

    Whether IBM will do this, we really don't know. They have more of an incentive to do this as JBoss is cutting into some of their installations. We do know that Sun isn't.

    • by psycho_tinman (313601) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @07:24PM (#9030628) Journal

      Ok, I'll bite. Sun is in the application server market, they have their own product [sun.com]. Is it one of the big names? No, it's not. Would they like that to change? I am certain they would. Just that it doesn't seem to be working too well at the moment. If you think for a moment that Sun isn't interested in controlling the direction of Java, google a bit for the rants people have written on how "heavy handed" and "autocratic" (I quote those terms because I don't completely agree) they can be in the JCP process.

      IBM already has the source, they have an implementation of the JDK, there is nothing to stop them from making competing products. The fact of the matter is that for IBM or anyone else, once you open source Java, they can fold it back into your own product, but nothing can prevent someone else from doing the same. We, as consumers, have the freedom to decide which implementation we wish to use. Do you honestly think that BEA and other application server makers won't scream blue murder ?

      I can't make a decision either way. On one hand, yes, there would be benefits to open sourcing Java. The community *could* get more involved in contributing extensions and patches to how Java works. The developer community surrounding Java being such, I think the pace of development would proceed at a much higher pace than Sun does. Another worrying factor is that if Sun has to fight for it's survival, it needs to make some tough decisions down the road. How many engineers will be pulled off a project which doesn't (strictly speaking) provide Sun with any revenue ? If Java development is left solely in the hands of a company who's survival is uncertain, then Java development will suffer as a result and I don't like seeing that happen.

      On the other hand, Sun hasn't done badly in it's role as "steward" of the directions in which Java goes.. They've (their marketing has) driven the Java brand relentlessly forward and I think the sheer size of the developer community is a good thing. I can't think of any reason why it would be advantageous for them to spend 8+ years promoting and developing the product, only to "give" it away to the masses. Even the Linux kernel has Linus at the helm. Who else can be trusted to take the helm of such a commercially valuable piece of intellectual property ? Who would resist the temptation to subvert it to their own ends?

      One final note to everyone who wants Java open sourced just so their favourite distro can start packaging it.. please, think a bit. Not all useful software is open sourced now, nor will it be in the foreseeable future. If it's your only reason for Sun to cast out a decade or more of research and development, it's not enough.

  • The boss (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Omega1045 (584264) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @06:45PM (#9030400)
    So, who should have custody of the child, the father...or the boss?

    I think making Java open source would be very cool. But I am sure all of the developer who invented Java were paid well for their time, and Sun should make the decision.

  • by njcoder (657816) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @06:57PM (#9030470)
    He says "if done carefully". Open sourcing Java isn't just a simple matter of replacing the license.txt file. There is a lot at stake and you don't want this to be the thing that kills Java.

    Of course if it doess all the OS zealots will say "see they did it too late".

    I don't see Gosling's comments as as strong a call to open source java as other's do.

    He's saying there could be a good thing.

    The rest of Sun thing it could be a good thing too that's why they were looking into it. It's neither an easy decision to make nor an easy one to implement.

    • by shaitand (626655) * on Saturday May 01, 2004 @11:20PM (#9031694) Journal
      How could it possibly kill java to open source it? I imagine sun would remain the maintainer, so it's not exactly like anything is going to go in they wouldn't approve of.

      The whole "millions of forks" argument is pointless. Anyone can look at the specs and implement a Java VM NOW and many DO. In fact there are open source Java VM implementations ALREADY so anyone too lazy to code one from scratch can do it now.

      What we have NOW is millions of forks, if java opens and sun actually accepts contributions as well (if they don't, it WILL fork and eventually settle on another major VM, read XFree86) then alot of those will disappear as additional features they offer become part of the new open source Sun java.

      Open sourcing java alone is not enough though, two other things need to happen.

      1. Sun must actually actively maintain and accept contributions. Or appoint a third party from the community to do so.

      2. The spec must become standardized and be taken out of sun's hands so that the community can actually submit extensions, etc.

      Basically Java must become open. As far as the VM, yes it's a matter of changing the license.txt file and putting the source out there. Fragmentation won't occur if they don't give it a reason to, if sun is slow or unwilling to accept contributions THEN it will kill java.
  • by cubicledrone (681598) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @07:07PM (#9030536)
    Monday: Open source Java
    Tuesday: Forked
    Thursday: Enormous whirling clusterfuck

    Saturday: Start on new language

  • Response to Mono? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PCM2 (4486) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @07:16PM (#9030582) Homepage
    I think -- and I'm really serious -- Sun should probably be looking at open sourcing Java as a response to Mono, if for no other reason.

    Miguel and Ximian took a look at Java and decided it didn't suit their needs, as far as developing rich desktop applications for Linux (e.g. Evolution). So rather than use Java, they decided it was actually better to implement the .Net environment themselves, from scratch. To me, that sounds like a fairly heavy indictment, and one that Sun should be looking into, if they're smart.

    Now you've got Mono humming right along, with the developers busy implementing two distinct stacks: One that's a Microsoft compatibility layer, for using all the stuff you might have written with Visual Studio, and another that's more Linux-oriented, with GNOME and GTK bindings, Linux printing architecture support, and so on -- the kind of things that people hope would come of an open-sourced Java.

    If Sun doesn't care about this, they've got more problems than I realized.
    • by OmniVector (569062) <see my homepage> on Saturday May 01, 2004 @08:58PM (#9031149) Homepage
      i was looking for this post. and i was thinking of modding it up but felt i'd rather reply. you hit the nail on the head. if sun doesn't open up java now, it stands to let C# walk all over it. there's a major problem with java right now in that no distro in linux can bundle it. installing it in most distros is a pain in the freaking ass and requires going to some java website, clicking agree on a bunch of stupid licsense agreements, etc. in short, it's not SEAMLESS. and java support should be in every distro out of the box such that java could become *the* new language for desktop development via java gtk/gnome bindings. you have to take a look at the current stance of java. it's preinstalled on all os x machines. it *could* be bundled with linux machines, or easily installed via apt-get install sun-jdk or emerge sun-jdk, but as it stands we can't do this because it requires that damn website/license agreement crap. switching to gpl would fix this, and suddently grind the C# momentum to a halt i think. c# honestly has a few nice perks but the advantages stop there. the ONLY advantage you get out of supporting C# is the windows world suddently has the ability to run your apps. and i'm all for allowing easy porting, but i don't think the solution to porting is to make it easy for the crappiest OS in existance to have easy port capabilities. we should set our standards higher, and worry more about making the best environment out of the tools we have. and currently java is more portable via applets, preinstalled on os x, and if gpled preinstalled in linux, than just supporting windows.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 01, 2004 @07:16PM (#9030586)
    Anyone is free to make their own implementation of a Java framework. There's an (outdated) list here [dwheeler.com] of alternative implementations (and possibly more here [geocities.com] as well).

    For example, SableVM [sourceforge.net] and Joeq [sourceforge.net] are the first two that I found on Sourceforge (and there are several more).

    So it's not really a question of "open sourcing Java" - because there are already open source implementations of Java (and a few commercial ones as well). It would be a question of Sun opening up their reference implementation of Java.

    So the main advantage of opening up their reference implementation would be to focus the software community's efforts more on one Java implementation and to stop the fragmentation. People would still be free to develop their own Java compatible VM's & compilers, but it would provide less of an incentive for them to do that if there's one central, relatively community-oriented distribution.
  • Fragmentation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Florian Weimer (88405) <fw@deneb.enyo.de> on Saturday May 01, 2004 @07:33PM (#9030692) Homepage
    A couple of years ago, most vendors certified their Java software just for selected Sun JVM versions. This meant that most serious Java users had to install different JVM versions on their systems. In a sense, Sun had already fragmented Java on its own.

    Has this changed in the meantime? Is Sun's Java implementation fully backwards compatible now, and do other vendors trust Sun in this area?
  • by forlornhope (688722) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @07:38PM (#9030730) Homepage
    Somebody probably already said this, but...
    I dont get why Sun can't keep the trademark and make people pass the test suite to us the Java trademark. Isnt this what happened to UNIX, the trademark went to one company and you have to pass a test suite to call your product a UNIX. This would be optimal for sun because Java would get a lot more use and development, while they still get to control what is called Java.
    Maybe there is a difference that I just don't see, but it seems like they are doing this already, just also placing that as a restriction on distributing the changes as well. GPL the source and keep the trademark. Its that simple.
  • A good thing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Earlybird (56426) <slashdot@purefictionPARIS.net minus city> on Saturday May 01, 2004 @07:53PM (#9030811) Homepage
    Regardless of the motives of third parties who are pushing for the opening of Java, such as IBM, making Java truly free is a good thing.

    Opening up a development process tends to bring more brains to the table, and that exposure, history has taught us, tends up to open the technology up in ways we had not imagined before.

    Consider the flurry of activity surrounding Python after its internal reorganization around the time of version 1.6 -- modified license, python-dev list, PEP system, more lenience towards experimental and backwards-compatibility-breaking changes -- after which we have fantastic new language features, as well as strange, clever new techology such as Stackless Python, Pyrex, Psyco, PyPy etc.

    Or, indeed, consider Linux. We all know what happened with that little insignificant grass-roots project. If Linux had been closed off around version 2.0, would we have an O(1) scheduler today, or configurable swappiness, or hyperthreading, or pre-emptible kernel?

    Regardless of the quality of Sun's engineers, Sun's hold on the Java is constraining its growth. For example, what if I have a wild new idea to make the JVM's synchronization locks lightweight enough to have barely any overhead at all, thus improving the speed of applications? There's a large barrier to incorporating that kind of change. With something like Python you can grab the CVS sources and start hacking. Just the existence of such a point of entry is enough to inspire curious visitors.

    Does Java need hacking? Sure. While my main point is that Sun possesses a finite number of brains -- what wonderful ideas and inventions aren't happening at Sun? -- there are specific areas that will benefit from the attention of outside hackers. JVM performance is still lacking, for one. The bytecode instruction set is still to specific to Java-the-language, as opposed to Java-the-platform, leaving potential other language platforms with much to desire.

    Furthermore, anyone who has struggled with a bug in Sun's Java implementation knows that the process to get a bug fixed is often arduous, sometimes impossible. Last I checked there were serious problems reported years ago and not yet fixed.

    Any language needs to develop in order to catch up with the times. With Java, it has been going rather slowly. With 1.5, Java is, in many ways, playing catch-up with C#. Other technologies spend much time in the pipeline before they are ratified and implemented. JDO took years. Support for "web services" is lacking, at best.

    To me it seems that Sun does not have the resources to drive Java development. Witness Eclipse, which did what Sun never could do: produce a solid IDE. Eclipse is a multiplatform program, yet appears native on every platform it runs on; and supports a myriad of modern technologies, such as background compilation, refactoring, version control, remote file systems, and profiling; and is also a teeming breeding ground for experimental technology, such as AOP, fine-grained source-level version control, graphical editng, and quality control. Eclipse built this house in record time. To see what Sun did, over a considerably longer period of time, check out the ancient, outdated monster that that is Netbeans/Forte.

    In summary, Java is better off in the hands of the community, not Sun alone.

    • Re:A good thing (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Bert690 (540293)
      Very well said. I've reported several bugs in Java runtimes. Years back they were quite responsive, but the last one I submitted was well over six months back, and I have received no word yet. The previous bug I reported took about 7 months to be confirmed. That's pathetic. And I always submit concise source code clearly demonstrating the problem.

      Sun -- either get your act together, or open Java up.

  • by dbIII (701233) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @08:02PM (#9030858)
    So, who should have custody of the child, the DEVELOPER...or the boss?
    Now if we follow the example of RMS with emacs - the boss would get the full say in it and sack the developer. Fortunately, one thing that RMS did correctly is that those who wrote the emacs program based on RMS's text editor macros released it under the GPL. Because of that, the developer of the time could keep on going with a forked version after RMS objected to X windows support, so we ended up with an emacs with features which were previously not implemented because they did not contribute to the hurd.

    I think RMS should sit this one out - his licence is good, but his "you're all evil if you don't use my own personal licence" comments are not going to help anyone.

  • Artistic Licence? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by erikharrison (633719) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @08:15PM (#9030937)
    When we say "Open Sourcing" why do we really mean "GPL"? Granted, the GPL has the advantage from Sun's point of view, as they get any changes back.

    But Perl was released for the longest time under the Artistic licence, which (IIRC) allows derivitive works, but doesn't allow you to call them Perl. This could keep the one, true source of Java unsullied by broken or incompatible implementations yet gives everybody else the hope that when Sun tanks Java won't.
    • Re:Artistic Licence? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by shaitand (626655) *
      "But Perl was released for the longest time under the Artistic licence, which (IIRC) allows derivitive works, but doesn't allow you to call them Perl. This could keep the one, true source of Java unsullied by broken or incompatible implementations yet gives everybody else the hope that when Sun tanks Java won't."

      The gpl will do this as well, sun java remains sun java so long as sun continues to maintain it and passes it off to another to maintain afterward.

      Anyone can get the specs and write their own impl
  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @08:40PM (#9031065)
    Although it has been said in part in various different ways, there is one reason to open source Java:

    Once open sourced, it cannot ever be bought out and buried.

    We all know who I'm talking about. And frankly, Sun does look pretty weak these days. I wonder if they'll be around in 5 years.

  • by gidds (56397) <slashdot.gidds@me@uk> on Saturday May 01, 2004 @08:57PM (#9031145) Homepage
    Java is a platform -- it has a specification, and Sun's own implementation. Which are we talking about here?

    At present, anyone can build a clean-room implementation of the Java specs; if it passes Sun's compatibility suite, then you can call it 'Java' and do what you like with it. I'd say that's pretty open already.

    What more could be done? Well, one thing is to open up the specification. Sun already accepts outside input to that, via the JCP; any further would probably mean dropping the compatibility requirements, and letting anyone call anything 'Java'. A Very Bad Move(tm)! We'd get lots of competing 'Java' platforms that were all incompatible with each other, no-one would know what to write for, and it would kill the language.

    The other thing is for Sun to open-source their own particular implementation. That would have several good effects, e.g. much easier porting to other platforms, fixing of bugs, optimisation, &c -- but they'd have quite a job to ensure that the results still had to pass their compatibility suite. (Or, again, chaos would reign.)

    One final thing: Java gets a very biased press on /. If you believed what you read here, you'd think no-one used it, that it had died a death, that it never ran beyond a crawl, and that it epitomised everything that was bad about closed standards in comparison to the wonderful openness of C#. But that's all rubbish. In the real world out there, it's about the highest-demand skill; it's behind a staggering amount of development in the corporate, commercial world; implementations have come an awful long way in the last few years; and the platform as a whole is far more open than C# will ever be. I think it merits a place on the 'Reports Of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated' list, alongside BSD and Apple...

    • A few things that can be done to improve on java. Make the standard a standard housed with an officially recognized standards body which does not allow patented features to be accepted into standards.

      Right now java is in sun's hands and nobody has a say in the standard but sun.

      And yes, open source sun's implementation, it's the only one anybody codes for! It does little good to split off a non-sun java vm. If they gpl it we don't have to worry about Microsoft doing this again either.

      And yes sun java is
  • Who cares? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hak1du (761835) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @09:27PM (#9031279) Journal
    Sun has had almost a decade to follow through on their initial promise of submitting Java to a recognized, existing standards body and they haven't done it. Instead, they have set up a process in which their customers and users do enormous amounts of work for them and Sun reaps the benefits and have the final say.

    Most disturbingly, Sun still has complete ownership of JCPs (read the license agreement, say, for JCP 32 [jcp.org]).

    Sun has had their chance. Java has been a positive influence on the industry, but it is time to move on to something else, both for legal reasons and for technical reasons.

What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite. -- Bertrand Russell, "Skeptical Essays", 1928

Working...