GNU Classpath, Sun, Java, GPL, Reflections & The Future

Mark Wielaard mark at
Mon Nov 27 23:56:25 UTC 2006

Hi all,

It has been 2 weeks now since the announcement that Sun will release
Java under the GPL and will adopt the classpath exception for the j2se
libraries to be compatible with all our efforts. And I must say I am
still recovering from the happy surprise! :)

I deliberately waited a little to let it all sink in and to be able to
talk to several of you and read all the reactions on Planet Classpath.
And to actually see the actions of Sun. They have delivered and having
spoken to several Sun people now has convinced me they are really
genuine. And the FSF agrees with that. We can include any GPL+exception
parts from OpenJDK in GNU Classpath if they are useful. And other GPLed
parts can of course be included in other GPL-compatible Free Software
projects the community is working on.

We used to be really suspicious about Sun and possible code
"contamination" (accidental copyright infringement), but all this will
soon be a thing of the past. The GPL acts as a covenant between all
parties. There is no fear anymore that there is any copyright
infringement going on between the projects (if you do keep track of the
original copyright statements of course) since they will all use the
same license. And the GPL acts like a patent shield between all parties.

And it seems GNU Classpath hackers are really happy about this. Sure it
sucks a little to have two duplicated free code bases for the core
libraries in the future. But for Sun to make their license explicitly
compatible is a really big thing. And they deserve major kudos for it.

This means people and projects will be able to gradually shift between
the various projects, mixing and matching just what is needed to get
higher compatibility, performance and features. And I do hope that will
happen, just as it has happened in the past with all the projects
adopting and collaborating around GNU Classpath. The way Sun did this
brings a high credibility to their effort and as Jonathan Schwartz said
during the presentation of OpenJDK we can now start trying to figure out
how from this point on we all can work together and not duplicate

The uptake and the drive behind GNU Classpath has been enormous. Just
seeing the amount of patches flow in the last 2 weeks (it looks like
this announcement made people work even harder to show off how cool GNU
Classpath really is!) and the quality of the code (the regressions in
Mauve are really minor - down to a handfull now - compared to the huge
increase in features and code since the last release) is amazing. And it
seems the adoption, features, maturity and collaboration have only been
increasing over the years. I have the feeling our work, and our honest
open collaborative nature, is substantially responsible for Sun's change
in policy. This really is your victory. And we have now been promoted
from "Freedom Fighters" that are trying to keep a free Java path to
Libre Java platform innovators that will work on equal footing with the
larger Java eco-system from now on.

It is impossible to predict the future (and I haven't even thought about
the implications that come from the fact that Sun decided to also
release JEE and JME under the GPL, completing the whole Java picture).
But it is clear that the future is very bright. It is also clear that we
have some commitments to the community, the various projects around GNU
Classpath and the users and distros relying on our work.

Sun is really trying to do this correctly and by picking their
development branch (1.7) for building up the free product and community
they showed that they do understand how building a developer community
works. this will allow them to incorporate the community input on a
product that is still shaping up instead of dumping some source code as
a finished product and project. But this also means it will not be all
ready at once for our own community for immediate adoption. And even
after half a year when all code should be out there it will still take
time and effort to adopt.

I think our commitment to our community, users and projects is that we
should not regress on freedom. We will provide free versions of anything
that Sun won't be able to release (yet). We will not regress in
coverage. All the platforms, projects and programs that run now with GNU
Classpath should run in the future. And we won't regress on having fun
innovating and hacking together! Which to me means we should make it
easy to adopt and collaborate. We want to make it easy for people to
improve together with GNU Classpath and OpenJDK by helping also the
small projects with less resources to adopt the new innovation
(coordinating new VM and Platform interfaces, etc.)

So now the short time roadmap. We are ready for a release of 0.93 this
week. We will hopefully branch tomorrow and release by Friday unless
some big disaster strikes. There seems general agreement that this will
be our last push before going full steam with the 1.5 generics branch.
We will create a branch for anybody wanting to keep maintaining the 1.4
part (but this will need a volunteer maintainer) and then after that
merge the generics branch to the trunk and make that the main
development tree.

It is clear that our release in January will finally be the 1.5 adoption
that people have worked on for so long. It seems runtimes and the
community is ready (and my only small worry that we would only have one
viable compiler [ecj] has been solved by Sun releasing javac under the

After that it will probably go very fast, by March Sun hopes to be able
to release all the OpenJDK code. Also for the core class libraries. So
we will have to see how we will handle merging and the jump from 1.5 to
1.7 then. Fun things to think about :)

One last item is Fosdem. There is no concrete program yet, but we will
have a room for around 100 people and people from Sun have shown
interest to join us. It will be 24-25th February 2007 in Brussels,
Belgium) There will most likely be 3 tracks.
One on GNU Classpath & Friends (more reflection and future plans), one
on OpenJDK and their plans plus collaboration and one on GNU/Linux
distos and packaging. And of course we will have a little party together
to celebrate all the good news! :)


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