Much was made of OpenJDK at last week's JavaOne conference. On Tuesday morning, Rich Green delighted in telling the assembled masses "We are now, as regards the open-sourcing of Java, done" and then posted the following:
From: Rich Green
Subject: Open JDK is here!
Today begins the next phase for Java. I am pleased to announce that
we have completed the open source release of Open JDK.
It's a great day for innovation - and remember, compatibility matters!
It turns out there is a bit more to do, like replacing some of the 'encumbered' code with a GPL version. Currently, the 6.5 MLOCs of OpenJDK source code must be built with some binaries which provide the encumbered code. Also OpenJDK doesn't yet build on Windows.
Sun have set up an Interim Governing Board to create a constituion for OpenJDK and to set up a proper Governing Board. The IGB has the following initial membership: Doug Lea, Fabiane Nardon, Dalibor Topić, and Sun's own Mark Reinhold and Simon Phipps.
The Apache Harmony technical session was well attended with more focus on the technology than on licensing issues and the JCK open letter.
Some anomalies still need working out. Sun said at JavaOne that it would release the JCK to the open source community, but later clarified that this meant the OpenJDK community. I guess that might even exclude forks of OpenJDK, but we'll have to wait and see.
Also, there is some strangeness in the way copyright assignment will be handled for eventual non-Sun committers to OpenJDK. The GNU definition of free software describes four freedoms including "The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits". So, in normal GPL projects, no-one has the right the make a fork without publishing their changes under the GPL.
Contrast this with the Apache license which allows anyone to create a fork and essentially do what they like with their changes, either publishing them or keeping them private.
OpenJDK is different from both these models. Sun, and only Sun, has the right to fork the code, make changes, and keep the changes private, although it seems unlikely that Sun would ever want to do that.
At this point when the source code is Sun's donation and when Sun is obliged to provide the source code to its licensees under the TLDA license, this is quite reasonable. But I wonder how many potential contributors will be happy to sign the Sun Contributor Agreement and give Sun these extended rights over their contributions.