It's not every day that one of the landmarks of computing is released into the world for all and sundry to play with. But that's exactly what Sun is doing with Java, promising to release all Java source code under the GPL by March 2007.
It's somewhat passed under the radar, but as this AP piece
reported, Sun has taken the historical step of releasing all of Java, bar those components it doesn't own, under the GPL. This, as the report correctly notes, is a massive addition to the open source world.
After all, it was Java that stirred visions of a write-once run-anywhere future of applications, regardless of operating system, and sold us a vision of an OS-agnostic future where all that mattered were the programs.
Of course, it didn't quite happen that way, but Sun estimates some 3.8 billion machines, from embedded systems including phones to PCs and servers, run Java applications.
In fact, be it your phone, web sites you visit, desktop programs or custom applications in the world around you, chances are you run into Java sometime during your day.
The motivation for Sun is still in its business interests, hoping that by releasing the code it will encourage more developers to use it, extend the life of the platform and, in turn, profit from the continuing demand for its services and expertise.
Personally, I just think it's pretty damn cool. While it's sometimes been the bane of cross-platform programming, it's also been a boon. As I write this I have Azureus, a highly popular Java-based P2P application, running in the background. And it runs just the same under Windows as under Linux.
While the release of the source code won't immediately change anything for the sphere of Java applications, it's going to be interesting to see what the world of open source developers can do with it. We'll almost certainly see optimised JRE and JDK builds for various distributions (not to mention retrieving packages without going through a clickwrap agreement) to improve the performance of Java applications under Linux and Windows, which can only be a good thing. I love my Azureus, but it's noticeably slower than a native application. Here's to the power of peer review. Well, hopefully.
Naturally, you can read more at Sun.
|OpenJDK: One of Sun's new initiaves to support the adoption of open-sourced Java