Saturday, December 23, 2006

Java and the GPL!

It's been a long time since I posted, and something that I was looking forward to, was Sun's move to open source the Java platform.

Well, they not only followed through with the plan, they completely caught me off guard with their choice of license. I think they caught everyone off guard.

I have always been in favor of putting Java under an open source license, but I never really gave much thought to which license would be appropriate. The GPL, with the so-called "Classpath" exception, I have come to believe is the ideal choice.

It allows for the virtual machine to be deeply integrated into other GPL software, such as Linux. The JVM has always been a second-class citizen where Linux is concerned, in that there was never very much time spent on optimizing the JVM for Linux. Now, the community can really get involved in optimizing the JVM for Linux, and I think this will have real benefits to the Java community, where Linux distributions are the target deployment platform.

Besides Linux, other projects will also benefit. GNOME will no longer have the excuse to ignore Java as a first-class language. Java may finally become a reality where the desktop is concerned. At least those desktops that use GNOME. will not have the problems of having quite a bit of its code based on a language without a free-as-in-freedom runtime environment. It also eliminates the need for distribution vendors to have to do all the engineering to create an distribution with an alternative Java such as GNU Classpath. This means less energy will be expended on non-value engineering tasks, and more can be plowed into the mainstream development.

I also believe that the knock-on effects of a GPL Java will not be fully realized for many years. This is truly an earth-shattering move by Sun, and they are to be applauded for it!

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