It has been an interesting month on Java. After Java went mainstream, you do expect things to quiet down. For a while, it did. Now Oracle stewardship of Java had brought excitment to the front.
The precursor to it is Oracle suing Google over Andriod. I must said I was surprised when IBM decided to take the sideline on this issue. A few weeks later, the issue became clear: IBM was in talks with Oracle over IBM switching camp from Apache Harmony to OpenJDK. That is the first salvo in Oracle-Apache spat. Regardless of what Bob Sutor says, it is a betrayal of Project Harmony. Nevertheless, it is IBM’s decision and one that it is entitled to make. Then of course it is Apple switching to OpenJDK. Uncharacteristically, Apple did not manage this transition well. It left people (like me) in limbo for a few days. For Oracle, they managed it superbly. It is a well organized coup against Apache Harmony.
About simultenously, we have the JCP election. Hologic, Oracle’s nominee, did not get it. This gave Apache got a boast: It is still regarded as important and crucially, supported by the community. After being pushed into a corner by Oracle, it decided to bite back and it did, ferociously. Now come the surprise… Oracle (or at least someone in Oracle) responded with a uncharacteristically conciliatory tone.
I think Apache is right to take a strong stand. If anything, Oracle had demonstrated that its culture is very business centric, i.e., all out to squeeze out any business advantage and use it. There is nothing wrong with this attitude. However, it does mean to play with Oracle, you must bring your muscle to bear. The usual softly softly approach that both SUN and Apache favour must be thrown out of the window when you negotiate with Oracle. This is what Apache belatedly realized and what Apache is doing.
As a Java developer, I wish the spat haven’t occured. At the minimum, this interfers with the development of Java and right now, it is looking like interference is too weak a word to describe this spat. Stalling is a better word today. I don’t know, tomorrow it may be derailment. You might see Apache as the instigator of the stalling of Java. You might be correct on this.
Even so, I am still supporting Apache in its fight. First of all, the industry needs a JVM with more permissible license than the GPL with exception. Apache license fits the bill. I can see the appeal of OpenJDK’s GPL for Oracle as it will requires almost all non-free/open source Java implementation to grease Oracle’s hand with silver but it is not good for the long term health of Java. Moreover, the Java community at large need to be heard. By and large, it is correct to say that the Apache Foundation represent the community. Finally, Oracle is finding its feet on handling the open source projects it inherited from Java, so we need to help it finds its feet by showing it the strength of the community carries.