As JavaOne 2006 opens its doors today, the age-old question is bound to be
asked again and again:  will Sun open source Java?

I have a fairly straightforward answer:  I don’t care.

And I suppose that most of the Java developers out there don’t care either.

What exactly is not open source in the Java we use today?  I had to think
hard to answer this question because, frankly, everything I need on a daily
basis is already available in source form, with one exception:  the Java
Virtual Machine.

Sun’s JVM (and others) is admittedly very good and I’m sure a lot of
developers would be interested in knowing how it works, but let’s face it: 
the inner workings of a Java Virtual Machine are completely irrelevant to most
Java developers and not having access to this resource will probably never get
in the way of writing Java code.

With that in mind, why is the question of open sourcing coming back so often?

One word:  zealotry.

I find that most of the time, people asking this question are not so much
Java developers than they are rabid open source fanatics who just want to make a
point.  In their eyes, not having access to the source of any software
product is a personal insult that they want to see remedied regardless of the
consequences or the price to pay.  It’s time to ignore these people and ask
the people who really care:  the Java developers.  And I am pretty sure
that if Sun asks them what they want, their answers will be much more along the
lines of improving or fixing bugs in the existing platform than about open
sourcing Java.

Having said that, there is one thing that Sun needs to fix about Java, and
urgently:  licensing.

For as long as I can remember (1996 I guess), distributing Java has been an
incredible legal nightmare that has turned off a lot of companies and
organizations that were extremely friendly to Java.  I’ve worked at some of
these companies and talked to many opeople working at these companies, and the
message is uniformly the same:  "We tried to work out a deal with Sun in
order to include the JDK or the JRE, the talks took months, never went anywhere
and we just gave up".

If Sun is lucky, these companies decided to ship their Java product anyway
and recommended to download the JDK separately (clearly not a user-friendly way
of proceeding), but in the worst cases, the companies simply decided to move
away from Java and to turn to platforms that offer more friendly licenses such
as…  Windows.

Seriously.

Come on, Sun (and Jonathan):   this is what we want to hear at the
keynote, not some fluff, hardware sales numbers or how Java and XML go "glove in
hand" (remember that one?).

Make it incredibly easy for individuals and companies to redistribute Java
and you will see what "viral" really means.

As for myself, I’m too busy scuba diving in Grand Cayman to attend the
keynote personally for the first time in ten years, but make no mistake: 
I’ll be watching.

 

O