OK, I know that Sun Microsystems has already open-sourced the Java EE5 application server code under the auspices of its GlassFish project, but the breaking news is that the full Java source code is to follow next. Sun has announced that the Java code will be covered by the General Public License 2 (GPLv2) which is great news for all you Linux developers out there who have been less than inspired by the Sun ‘Community Development and Distribution License.’
Even more so, I suspect, because I am led to believe that Sun is to use the classpath exception license addition to allow programmers using open source Java to use a different license for their applications, preventing everything from having to be covered by the GPL. This is obviously going to be an important factor for those of you working with Java libraries and virtual machine on top of shipping applications, because it means that your current licensing will not be affected. And if you really don’t want to get into the whole open source thing, then Sun have even thought of that by running a dual licensing structure that sees the commercial license continue to be available.
One thing is for sure, this whole process of open sourcing Java which starts as form today, will help to establish the technology in the hearts and minds of web developers, like it needed any help in that direction. It will also help to increase support revenues for Sun, and that’s something they do need help with.
Expect to see Java Micro Edition move to open source licensing first, with Java Standard Edition taking up to six months to follow. It would appear that Sun are ‘not ready’ to let all six million lines of this code out into the one in one fell swoop, instead adopting a piecemeal approach with compiler, hotspot virtual machine and help system leaking out one at a time.
What will be most interesting, at least from my non-developer, technology journalist perspective, is whether this move will lead to code forking and a fragmentation of the Java user base. And if that happens, far from boosting Sun revenue and position it could well end up being a nail in its corporate coffin.