Blog Post

Apache Software Foundation Packs Its Toys and Goes Home

Updated. The Apache Software Foundation resigned its seat on the Java SE/EE Executive Committee Thursday, the steering committee for the direction of the Java programming language as a protest on how Oracle is offering it a license to the technology. The issue is how open Java will remain. According to a blog post and email sent out to committers, Apache resigned from both the Executive Committee and the Java Community Process organization entirely, citing the Executive Committee’s failure “to demonstrate that the EC has any intent to defend the JCP as an open specification process, and demonstrate that the letter and spirit of the law matter.”

The post mentions Apache’s 10-year committee membership, as well as its numerous contributions to the Java (s orcl) community, including Java Specification Requests (JSRs), project communities Tomcat, Ant, Xerces, Geronimo, and Velocity. As noted in the post, JSRs for Java 7 and 8 passed, despite Apache’s objections, as well as comments from several other members expressing concern over the Technology Compatibility Kit (TCK) license change. Apache had threatened to leave the committee last month if Oracle refused to grant a Java SE TCK license that would allow Apache to test and distribute the Apache Harmony project under Apache licensing. Apache argues that:

Oracle is violating their contractual obligation as set forth under the rules of the JCP by only offering a TCK license that imposes additional terms and conditions that are not compatible with open source or Free software licenses.

Oracle has come under a lot of fire this year from the open-source community, and as Matt Asay noted back in September, companies like Oracle need developers to maintain their market dominance. Oracle sued Google over Android’s Dalvik virtual machine; Stephen Colebourne called out he felt was Oracle stacking the deck for the JCP EC nominations, and back in September, Open Office developers forked the code into the LibreOffice suite to get out from Oracle’s thumb, and the OpenSolaris 2010.05 release was killed back in August, with rumors circulating that the project was essentially dead.

The JCP EC has seen other high-profile defections this year, including Java co-creator James Gosling, Tim Peierls (who cited the same licensing concerns as Apache), and Doug Lea, who refused to seek another term, stating:

Rather than fixing rules or ceasing violations, Oracle now promises to simply disregard them. If they indeed act as they have promised, then the JCP can never again become more than an approval body for Oracle-backed initiatives.

Bob Lee, JSR-330 lead and former EC nominee, has also expressed concern regarding the future of the JCP and Oracle’s involvement with Java. In an interview with Structure, he said:

While Apache’s departure is huge loss for the JCP, the JCP is not Java. The JCP has been walking dead for years now, little more than a marketing ploy pretending to be a standards organization.

Java’s future is open source, not so much OpenJDK’s GPLv2 patent booby trap, but in the greater, vital open source coral reef that sprung up around Java. In past years, innovation from the JCP has paled in comparison to contributions from external open source projects, several of which came from Google (Android, GWT, Guava, etc.). Hopefully, this open source competition and innovation continues despite Oracle’s shortsighted best efforts to control and profit from everything Java.

Image courtesy Flickr user Ernst Vikne.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):