Java Community Process not secretive, claims chair

Rumours that the JCP is prohibitively secretive have dissuaded some people from participating in the group's work.

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The chair of the JCP (Java Community Process), the official mechanism for amending the Java platform, defended the organisation's openness this week in response to contentions that the JCP operates in secrecy.

"The belief that the JCP is a secretive organisation is widespread. I often hear it when I meet with Java developers," JCP Chair Patrick Curran said. He added that some people have told him they are unwilling to participate because they believe they would be prohibited from discussing the group's work. "Not true," Curran exclaimed.

He said this belief likely comes from a "confidential information" clause in the Java Specification Participation Agreement, pertaining only to information classified as confidential. This almost never happens, said Curran.

He made his defence of the JCP in response to former Sun Microsystems official Simon Phipps's contention, expressed in a blog and an email to Curran, that that the nomination of SouJava to the JCP executive committee could lead to the elimination of secrecy and confidentiality requirements. Sun oversaw the JCP before being acquired by Oracle last year.

Curran also refuted a notion that the JCP executive committee meets secretly and does not publish proceedings. "In fact, since September 2008, the full minutes and meeting materials have been public by default," Curran said. The committee does reserve the right to go into private session, but does not do it often, he said.

Curran also denied a claim that the work of JCP expert groups is hidden from outsiders. "While this is sometimes true, it should be noted that about half of all currently active JSRs (Java Specification Requests) are being run as open source projects, while others use public mailing lists, public issue-tracking mechanisms and similar transparency techniques," said Curran.

He expressed disappointment that progress in transparency has not been understood. "Obviously, we need to be even more transparent and to tell people what we're doing," he said.

The JCP has taken a lot of public relations hits lately, from such sources as Java founder James Gosling and Apache. Recently, Apache resigned from the JCP, arguing Oracle exercises too much control over it. Gosling distanced himself from the organisation last year.

In his blog entry, Phipps also referred to JSRs having "hostile" licensing terms to open source software. Apache, for its part, has had a dispute with Oracle and, prior to that, Sun about licensing for the Apache Harmony implementation of Java.

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