The Road to Open-source Java
The road that led to the decision to open source Java was certainly laid by Project Peabody, as outlined in the previous installment of this article series. I recently spoke with Mark Reinhold, chief engineer and architect for Java SE, about the impact developer contributions have had on Java over the past two years.
Mark told me that when the first Mustang (Java SE 6) beta was released in February of this year, Sun expected to see a spike in bug reports. To everyone's surprise, this didn't happen. Initially, the concern was that the beta release was not as popular as it was expected to be, and it was not generating enough excitement. Upon further analysis, this could not be further from the truth.
The reality was that the Mustang beta was very popular; it just so happened that many of the bugs related to new Java features were already reported and fixed prior to the release, thanks mainly to the Java community. Since developers had access to the source and binary updates each week leading up to the release, the problems were reported and cleared up incrementally by both the community and Sun. Furthermore, the analysis showed that overall quality had improved over previous revisions of Java, with total bug counts lower than in the past.
The conclusion was that opening the source to the Java community led to fewer regression-related bugs, and the improved quality of new features due to early feedback, and the feedback on the design before code was even created. Going forward, the program will be expanded when Sun releases a system based on the Subversion source-code control system to make it easier for developers to download updates to the Java source code.
Judging by the feedback and improved quality, Project Peabody, with weekly releases of Java SE source and binaries, has been a big success. Overall communication has improved for both Sun and Java developers, and the Java community is subjected to fewer surprises as all Java development work is open and available to those who wish to download it.
This program will more than likely be impacted as Java is released under an open-source license; hopefully in a positive way. Be sure to pay close attention to the java.net community, Sun open-source web site, and the Dr. Dobbs Portal Java department to keep up on the ever-evolving world of Java software development.