An End To Diversity for Java?

JCP To Become a “dreadful monoculture”?

Jessica Thornsby

“They have all realised that they were giving their work and IP to improve a proprietary Oracle product… for nothing.”

Neil Bartlett has posted his thoughts on Apache leaving the JCP. He believes that their departure will inevitability damage Java, since the programming language has traditionally been strengthened by a “diversity of brain-power.” Companies have previously been encouraged to contribute to Java by the JSPA, which was recognised as a legal framework that allowed their work to be distributed as an open platform. Could that all be about to change, now that Oracle has refused to allow Apache to test Harmony without Field of Use restrictions? Bartlett asks why any expert would spend time and effort working on a JSR, when it’s plausible the end result will be “taken” by Oracle. Bob “Crazy Bob” Lee, Doug Lea, Tim Peierls and Apache have all resigned, or declined to participate, in the JCP EC. Bartlett speculates Google could soon follow. “They have all realised that they were giving their work and IP to improve a proprietary Oracle product… for nothing,” he says. Stephen Colebourne agrees: “there is no point helping to write specifications that you aren’t allowed to implement.” Where does that leave the JCP? Bartlett predicts that experts will increasingly be selected from people who are paid by Oracle – either directly or indirectly, and he doesn’t restrict this to Oracle employees: “it’s clear that Oracle wrote IBM a fat cheque to get them to abandon Harmony and join OpenJDK… the details of the deal are private but I sincerely hope they emerge on WikiLeaks some day.”

He predicts an end to many different voices battling it out in the JCP, replaced instead by a “dreadful monoculture.” And his advice to fellow Java developers? “I’m not certainly giving up the platform just yet because there still aren’t any better games in town. All the same, it seems wiser than ever to transfer at least a few eggs to alternative baskets. Just in case.”

In Stephen Colebourne’s opinion, the JCP EC have made a huge mistake by voting ‘yes’ on the JSRs. In response to the ASF’s resignation, Oracle defended themselves with the argument that they needed to move Java forward. However, Colebourne states that Oracle were always going to proceed, with or without the JCP EC’s approval. Therefore, a ‘no’ vote from the EC would not have affected the development of Java – but it would have made a point. “Since the EC voted “Yes”, they tacitly accepted Oracle’s right to break the JSPA legal agreement when it is in their commercial interest,” he says. As a vendor-neutral open standards body, Colebourne views the JCP to be dead, but it still has potential as a tool for influencing Oracle. “So its both dead and undead. A zombie,” he concludes. “Its the end of an era. An era of hope that the JCP would be Java’s ISO, producing truly Open Standards. So as that era closes we look forward to the new closed era of Java. Where its Oracle’s way or the highway.”

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