Community Still Waiting For Open JCP

Open Letter To The JCP Published

Jessica Thornsby

The elections results may be in, but the community still have a few bug-bears when it comes to the JCP……

The JCP elections may be closed, but many members of the
community are still calling for changes to be made to the
organisation. Dan Allen and Lincoln Baxter have published an
Open letter to the JCP Executive Committee
calling for just such a reform. In the document, they pinpoint
several issues they have with the JCP, including a lack of
openness. They believe this stems from the fact that the EG mailing
lists are, generally, not open to the public, despite the fact that
these mailing lists are where the majority of technical decisions
take place. Not only are the public locked out of the mailing
lists, but EG members from one JSR, are not allowed to read the
correspondence of any other JSR. This does not foster either
competition or collaboration.

“Feedback is one directional, from community to EG. All the
general public can see are the drafts of the JSRs. They don’t know
how the EG arrived at that draft, meaning they aren’t able to study
the discussions that went into it,” reads the complaint. The letter
also claims the JCP ” fails to respect the nature of software
development” by targeting “big-bang releases” instead of following
an iterative process, which makes it difficult for consumers to
carry out migrations, and gives the technology plenty of time to
become seriously out-of-date while users wait for the next

So, what do Dan Allen and Lincoln Baxter propose as a solution?
They want to see the JCP redefined as a more open organisation that
fosters “a collaborative, evolutionary process” where specification
documents, APIs, reference implementations and TCKs, are published
under an open, non-clickthrough license. This means no TCK fees,
and no closed mailing lists for JSRs. Cay Horstmann has already written that dropping the TCK fees will
be the most difficult demand to achieve, as these test suites are
expensive to develop and maintain, but perhaps Oracle could set up
“a more equitable sharing of the work” in the future. In addition,
the field of use restriction means that third party implementations
of Java cannot run in the mobile and embedded space, and Cay
Horstmann assumes that “Oracle isn’t just going to give up on that

Dan Allen and Lincoln Baxter also want the names of individual
representatives, and the companies they represent, to be listed on
the specification page, and for the JCP to implement an official
process for deprecating or removing a technology. Ideally, they
would also like periodic EC meetings to be open to the public,
platform releases occurring at regular, scheduled intervals, and a
JCP funded by donations, rather than membership fees. Cay Horstmann
makes a few additional suggestions, namely encouraging
participation by improving the public forum on the JCP list, and
implementing a set technical infrastructure across the JSR, instead
of allowing each JSR to ‘cobble together’ their own tools.

JCP reform has been a hot topic for a while. In March, 2010,
Mark Volkmann, a steering committee member of the Saint Louis Java
Users Group said that he “felt a bit locked out of the process” of
creating specifications, as the only way to impact on the JCP was
to work for an influential company. And, following IBM’s decision
to side with Oracle on OpenJDK, Bob Sutor blogged that IBM now expects “to see some long
needed reforms in the JCP, the Java Community Process, to make it
more democratic, transparent, and open.” CTO of SAP, Vishal Sikka
has also urged Oracle to open the JCP, following their
acquisition of Sun: “we believe it is essential to transition the
stewardship of the language and platform into an authentically open
body that is not dominated by an individual
corporation…….Oracle has now the unique opportunity to open the
Java Community Process.” Although some, such as Doug Lea, have
already lost faith in the JCP ever being open.

“The technology is way ahead of the process,” summarises the
open letter, before once again urging Oracle to take steps to open
up the process.

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