Eclipse: “more users than ever before but also less committer involvement than ever before.”


“Eclipse is at a cross-roads: it has more users than ever before but also less committer involvement than ever before.”

So opens a blog post from former Director of Committer Community at the Eclipse Foundation Bjorn Freeman-Benson. He points to the the official Eclipse distros as the root of his discontent with the Eclipse Foundation. The Eclipse distros are downloads and bundles of Eclipse projects, hosted by Eclipse Foundation Members, such as IBM, nexB and BEA. Freeman-Benson argues that these distros give single companies too much influence over project direction and points to the Apache Foundation as a positive role model that Eclipse could learn a thing or two from.

While a platform for open source projects, completely removed from the influences of large corporations may sound like the ideal, Freeman-Benson is over-simplifying the issue. The Eclipse distros may give multinationals like IBM a way to steer the development of Eclipse projects, but sponsors like IBM provide valuable resources, often paying developers to contribute code to Eclipse projects. With that taken into consideration, it’s difficult to argue that Eclipse would be ‘better off’ without the sponsors – and if a corporation is contributing time and resources to a project, then of course they want to get something out of it. Is guiding Eclipse projects in the direction most profitable to themselves, a fair trade-off for the resources these organisations bring to the table?

Committer to the Eclipse Platform UI project DataBinding, Matthew Hall, thinks so: “don’t ditch the girl that took you to the dance,” he says. “What do you suppose I would do if folks started complaining that I exercise undue control over DataBinding? I’d be inclined to say the hell with it and move on.”

Freeman-Benson fails to mention that his ideal of an open source platform for the people, by the people, completely removed from corporate influence – means no corporate help. And, as long as companies like IBM put time and money into Eclipse projects, they’ll always have a say in the way those projects develop.

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