Free as in Java

The news is out that Java is free. I suspect that 20-30 bloggers are going to steal that title (Free as in Java) so I wanted to try to get my blog post out first. Tim Bray has the news and apparently SUN is going to have an announcement on this tomorrow morning.

In a former life I was a major contributor to which was the precursor to Jakarta and participated in Tomcat and Ant when they were released. I was also the lead developer and project founder of Jetspeed and invented the Portlet API *which have now essentially evolved into widgets). I’ve also contributed to GNU Classpath and GCJ. Long story short I have a vested interest in seeing Java become Open Source.

Needless to say this has been a good day. I hated having to code on top of a non-free platform.

Many contributors to the Apache Software Foundation have been arguing that Java needed to be Open Source a long time now. Chief among those are probably Geir Magnussen and Danese Cooper who deserve a lot of respect for fighting the good fight and putting pressure on SUN to do the right thing.

Personally I can vouch that this will push Java forward. I’ve been prevented from contributing to Java for years. I’ve wanted to submit patches to Jakarta regexp and Javadoc in the past and literally been told to take my patches elsewhere. I don’t think it was done out of spite but just due to the fact that SUN had little to no interest in taking outside patches.

One comment Tim Bray made is important:

I’ve had a few people say things like “I’ll never forgive Sun for what [name deleted] said in 1998” or “The liaison from [company deleted] were lying bastards and only in it to rape us.” And so on. Well, it’s history, it’s water under the bridge, forget it!

Fair enough. I’ll try to avoid saying I told you so.

And I bet that nobody else will talk about this, so I will: there was internal resistance, and it was passionate. I disagreed, but I have a lot of respect for those people; they had good arguments that we need to keep carefully in mind, going forward. There are people who are bruised and hurting now and really unsure that this is the right path.

Honestly, it’s this type of thinking which is causing SUN to lose market share to Linux, Apple, and Microsoft. Think different guys!


The #1 think I want to see ASAP is a build of JDK 1.4 which supports a backport of java.util.regex from 1.5.

The biggest thing that drives me crazy about Java is that you can’t update portions of the standard library without upgrading the whole VM.

This means I end up getting stuck on revisions of the JVM for about two year. I’m still running 1.4 and it’s pretty much rock stable but 1.5 is core dump city.

  1. I wish they will pay more attention to support my favorite OS FreeBSD http://www.FreeBSD.Org/

    SUN, too late is better than never ;)

    Thank you,
    Arab Portal Network

  2. Nice one, I had no idea you were there in the early days of J2EE.

    But if I read it right, JDK7 will be base of the first GPL’d Java release?

  1. 1 Damien Mulley

    Java is going to be open sourced

    Java is going to be open sourced it seems. Is it too late though?

  2. 2 CenterNetworks

    Sun makes Java open-source

    Computer server and software maker Sun Microsystems Inc. said Monday that it had begun to make its Java technology an open-source software project available for free on the Internet.

  3. 3 IT Blogwatch

    Java is free, as in GPL (and feline noun verbage)

    The Duke of URL is IT Blogwatch, in which Sun open-sources Java. Not to mention the cats that are VERBING UR NOUNZ…

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