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Simon Phipps

With a focus on open source and digital rights, Simon is a director of the UK's Open Rights Group and president of the Open Source Initiative. He is also managing director of UK consulting firm Meshed Insights Ltd.

Is OpenJDK Open-By-Rule?

The new governance for Oracle's open source Java project is out. How does it measure up?

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When I published my Open-By-Rule Benchmark earlier this week, I promised that I would test it against the new proposed governance for the OpenJDK community, a project started by Sun under my co-direction as a home for open source development of a GPL-licensed version of the Java platform.

For various reasons, the OpenJDK governance was never fully defined and the entire subject has been silent for over a year. However, Mark Reinhold (formerly of Sun and now chief Java architect at Oracle) published a draft governance yesterday, together with a list of Oracle and IBM's selections for the new Governance Board. As data points, it's worth noting that:
  • The vast majority of the work on OpenJDK is conducted by Oracle staff.
  • OpenJDK implements specifications devised at the JCP and does not invent features itself.
  • OpenJDK is licensed under GPLv2 plus several license exceptions (notably the Classpath exception) to prevent unintended consequences of using the GPL.
  • OpenJDK users are entitled to use the test suites (TCKs) and thus benefit from the Java brand under unique terms that apply only to OpenJDK. As far as I am aware only Red Hat has used this capability.
  • Significant contributions to the success of the project have come from Red Hat staff, right from the start of OpenJDK.
  • The individual contributors to the predecessor GNU Classpath project have also played a significant role in making OpenJDK a viable project, especially on GNU/Linux
  • Google has also been a significant contributor.
  • Much more recently, Apple has joined and contributed.
  • IBM is showing early signs of contribution.
  • It is widely assumed that IBM's decision to join OpenJDK and drop Apache Harmony was accompanied by a back-room deal with Oracle to get a preferential say in governance.
I plan to discuss the new governance on Saturday at FOSDEM, but as a preview I've posted a score card for the draft measured against the benchmark (over on my personal blog as this is rather specialised). On a scale of -10 to +10, the draft scores -3 and as such does not qualify as "open-by-rule" in my eyes. If you'd like to discuss this more, read the full score card on my blog and comment there, or meet me at the Free Java track at FOSDEM in Brussels this weekend.

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