Lots of coverage of today’s move by Sun, to open-source Java under the GPL, suggests that this is selfless, honourable Sun making good on its promise of six months ago. Sneak, obviously, has a different take. This is greedy, shifty Sun finally making good on its flaky promise of ten years ago to create a properly open version of Java.
Pundits with memories as long as Sneak’s will recall that Java was launched in 1995. Shortly afterward, in November 1996, Sun announced its determination to see Java made into an international standard through ISO. During 1997 Microsoft lobbied hard to prevent Sun being allowed to submit Java to ISO, but it needn’t have bothered. Sun’s interest in submitting anything to ISO waned in almost exact proportion to the increasing likelihood that Java might bring in some cash. In November 1997 Sun got the nod from ISO to submit Java - it had two years to do so, but it never happened.
Sun then dabbled with standardising Java via a different standards body - ECMA. This effort ended in March 2000 in acrimony, with ECMA secretary general Jan van den Beld labelling the effort “an enormous waste of experts’ time and companies’ money.”
Instead, Sun cobbled together its own Java “community” process, to its own rules, and carried on whistling.
Over the years Sneak has often wondered how much of Java’s rapid early growth was underpinned by Sun’s promises that the language would be made public property. Who would have guessed that ten years of procrastination would follow?
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