Sun opens Java

Sun Microsystems Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif., has released the source code to its widely used Java programming language. Analysts see the move as one that should widen the reach of the already-prevalent language.

The announcement also comes after years of Sun declining to open Java, even as Sun released many of its other technologies, including the Solaris operating system, as open source.

The company will post the source code to various pieces of Java over the next few months, according to Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz, who announced the release today. Available immediately, on the site, is the code for the Java Platform Standard Edition?which has over 6 million lines of code?and the Java Platform Micro Edition for embedded systems.

The company estimates that there are 5 million Java developers worldwide and more than 3.8 billion machines running Java in some form. The company hopes to extend the reach of Java by allowing outside developers to contribute to its advancement.

"This creates a fully permeable membrane between members within the Sun internal community and the world at large," said Rich Green, Sun's executive vice president of software.

Sun will release Java under the Version 2 of General Public License, the most commonly used license for open-source projects. Linux, for instance, resides under the GPL. Previous Sun open-source releases used the company's own, more restrictive Common Development and Distribution License information. Green said the company chose GPL to ensure the widest possible compatibility with other programs within the open-source community.

"There are open-source places and commercial places, and it is difficult to be in between. Maybe this is a way of Sun saying if Java goes open source, it will have better distribution, and that will be good for Sun in the long term," said Bruce Sunstein, a lawyer who heads the patent practice group for the Boston-based law firm Bromberg and Sunstein.

Other members of the open-source community expressed enthusiasm for the move.

"It will be very good that the Java trap won't exist anymore, " said open-source advocate Richard Stallman, referring to how fierce open-source advocates worried about using the more strictly licensed Java in otherwise open-source environments.

"Open Source Java is the missing piece of the puzzle to enabling broader open-source development from desktop to server. Making Java freely available under the GPL is good for developers, good for the community and, ultimately, good for the customer," said Paul Cormier, executive vice president of engineering for Red Hat Inc. of Raleigh N.C.

Joab Jackson is chief technology editor of Washington Technology's sister publication, Government Computer News.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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