Canadian developer welcomes Sun’s OpenJDK plan

SAN FRANCISCO—Individuals, not organizations, are expected to be the biggest contributors to OpenJDK, said Jonathan Schwartz, Sun Microsystems Inc. CEO and president, at a press conference at the 2007 JavaOne conference.

“Open source is just another term for user-generated content,” said the CEO. “To me, it’s all about individuals contributing to the greater good and greater momentum of the technology that they’re all creating together.”

Earlier, Sun said it was offering an open source Java development kit. The news followed an announcement by the company last November that it would eventually open source its Java platform.

Schwartz said he expects to see a great deal of collaboration in the community. This includes its traditional partners – Google, Red Hat, IBM, Oracle – as well as individuals across the globe.

Brian McKinney, CEO and president, of Calgary, Alberta-based ICEsoft Technologies Inc., a provider of Java browser development software for enterprises, agreed with Schwartz’s expectation that individuals will likely be the major contributors to Sun’s OpenJDK platform.

“With organizations, there tends to be organizational agendas brought to bear. And it’s always tough,” he told Computerworld Canada.

With ICEsoft’s own open source community of 12,000 developers worldwide, McKinney has observed that all the meaningful contributions stem from the individual level. Individuals tend to be much more benevolent, he said, with the goal of giving back to the community rather than advancing their own personal interests.

ICEsoft’s product, ICEfaces, is an Ajax framework for Java Enterprise Edition that was open sourced last November.

McKinney thinks it’s a good thing that Sun decided to take the “responsible position” of open sourcing JDK. “It’s validating some of the open source business models that are out there.”

Schwartz said he also expects it “to be a very well run community.” Sun still holds some degree of control over the source code through the Interim Governing Board, consisting of five members (two of which are Sun employees) that will oversee the community’s direction.

McKinney doesn’t see the presence of the Interim Governing Board as contradicting Sun’s goal for an open source Java community. “I think they need to have that control over the standards… especially when it is something like the JDK, as big and as popular as it is.”

He said Sun is fundamentally meeting the needs of this large open source developer community, and has a corresponding responsibility to maintain order.

Similarly, McKinney said keeping that control over the community process and standards, will lessen the possibility that open sourcing might lead to the Java platform splintering into incompatible pieces down the road. “I think because everyone is worried about the splintering, and [because] they have their eye on the ball, it’s so much less likely to happen.”

He also doesn’t believe that Sun’s decision to open source JDK will have an impact on other open source communities out there. “I really believe JDK is a different kind of an animal. It’s the most widely adopted language out there.”

The only language that comes close to Java’s popularity is Linux, he said, which started as open source and proliferated as grass roots. Whereas, JDK is the inverse, becoming open source after already being widely adopted.

“There are obligations to the legacy customer base and the people who were using it and relied on it.”

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