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Suns Java open source fiasco June 1, 2006

Posted by rjdohnert in Tech News.

Jonathan Schwartz to much fanfare has announced that Java will go open source as I reported.  Schwartz has said that the GPL is very much on the table for a possible license for Java.


My Take; That has to be one of the most boneheaded things I have ever heard from Sun and particularly Schwartz.  Schwartz says he is trying to keep compatibility and brand in one piece and to discourage forking, yet he mentions GPL as a possible option for licensing.   If he wants to keep forking and compatibility as priority 1 the GPL should not even be on the table.  The GPL does nothing to keep forking and compatibility as top priorities.  Sure he can control brand and everything else with a dual license but all a few disgruntled project member need to do is rebrand Java as Tea, Soda Pop, or Hot chocolate, all examples mind you, and then guess what Jonathan, you have a fork. And that fork can gain fanfare as we have seen with Linux and Google fanfare promotes popularity and what’s popular doesn’t necessarily mean better. Now with the GPL v3, all the momentum we have seen Java get as a platform for streaming media and among content creators who charge a fee will be lost.  As the GPL v3 is incompatible with the DRM that they require and I don’t think all the music stores and content creators that use Java will be all willing to sit beside Schwartz and Stallman around the campfire playing flutes and singing Koombaya.  How long do you think it will take those customers to adapt to the .NET Framework and jump the Java ship?

I can understand Sun and Schwartz and their reasoning, they are trying to look like the good guys here, but it looks like they are trying to get in good with one demographic, The GPL community, and that’s not a good way to go.  They have other customers out there that they also need to take into consideration.   I’m not against open sourcing Java.  What I am against is someone running around like a 19 yr old with a 24 hour erection screaming "OPEN SOURCE!!!!!!!" and being irresponsible with an important platform like Java where the decision made can either help Java and Sun or sink them both like the Titanic. 

If it was up to me, I would put Java under the CDDL.  When you put the GPL into the mix you are basically playing Russian roulette with an automatic weapon that’s been cocked.  Software licenses should not be used as political weapons.  the GPL is very political and its my opinion that Sun should keep Java out of the politics game.



1. eckes - June 1, 2006

I agree that GPL is particular bad for Sun: if they want to do Dual-Licensing they have to be very carefull to only incooperate patches which have their copyright assigned to Sun.

Since it can easyly happen that somebody is developing a research fork and forgets/refuses to assign those rights, and BAM – Sun cannot oncooperate the community progress into their upstream repository (without losing the aility to dual license it)

You can witness this with MySQL – there is really no community around the development of the DB Server, MySQL just wont accept patches.

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