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ESR's Open Letter to McNealy: Set Java Free!

michael posted more than 10 years ago | from the let-my-people-go dept.

671

yukster writes "Eric Raymond has posted an open letter to Sun Microsystem's Scott McNealy asking him to 'Let Java go.' He says Sun can 'have ubiquity or [it] can have control.' The excellent improvements made to Java in the upcoming 1.5 release help re-level the playing field with C#. But, it seems like if Sun really wants Java to rule the world, they should heed ESR's advice. Hey Mr. McNealy, listen to this guy... set Java free!"

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671 comments

Ceren, be my valentine! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8280870)

Is it any wonder people think Linux [debian.org] users are a bunch of flaming homosexuals [lemonparty.org] when its fronted by obviously gay losers [nylug.org] like these?! BSD [dragonflybsd.org] has a mascot [freebsd.org] who leaves us in no doubt that this is the OS for real men! If Linux had more hot chicks [hope-2000.org] and gorgeous babes [hope-2000.org] then maybe it would be able to compete with BSD [openbsd.org] ! Hell this girl [electricrain.com] should be a model!

Linux [gentoo.org] is a joke as long as it continues to lack sexy girls like her [dis.org] ! I mean just look at this girl [dis.org] ! Doesn't she [dis.org] excite you? I know this little hottie [dis.org] puts me in need of a cold shower! This guy looks like he is about to cream his pants standing next to such a fox [spilth.org] . As you can see, no man can resist this sexy [spilth.org] little minx [dis.org] . I mean are you telling me you wouldn't like to get your hands on this ass [dis.org] ?! Wouldn't this [electricrain.com] just make your Christmas?! Yes doctor, this uber babe [electricrain.com] definitely gets my pulse racing! Oh how I envy the lucky girl in this [electricrain.com] shot! Linux [suse.com] has nothing that can possibly compete. Come on, you must admit she [imagewhore.com] is better than an overweight penguin [tamu.edu] or a gay looking goat [gnu.org] ! Wouldn't this [electricrain.com] be more liklely to influence your choice of OS?

With sexy chicks [minions.com] like the lovely Ceren [dis.org] you could have people queuing up to buy open source products. Could you really refuse to buy a copy of BSD [netbsd.org] if she [dis.org] told you to? Don't you wish you could get one of these [drexel.edu] ? Personally I know I would give my right arm to get this close [dis.org] to such a divine beauty [czarina.org] !

Don't be a fag [gay-sex-access.com] ! Join the campaign [slashdot.org] for more cute [pipboy2002.mine.nu] open source babes [pipboy2002.mine.nu] today!

Re:Ceren, be my valentine! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8280937)

She's fat dude, Tell her she's like Windows and needs to lose the bloatware!

and the homos, dude!, what your grandpa does is your own business.

Re:Ceren, be my valentine! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8280992)

She's not fat.

Re:Ceren, be my valentine! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8281039)

Don't forget to take the beer goggles off.

Real women use Linux

Re:Ceren, be my valentine! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8281043)

See, I really like the Ceren troll, dude. But for god's sake please stop replying to yourself to start this lame flamewar over the chick's obesity. We all know that the geeks here are desperate and would hump everything that can spell 'Linux'.

Re:Ceren, be my valentine! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8280964)

dude, your chick has a fat ass, and after you have embaressed her on slashdot like this I wouldn't be surprised if she packs her bags and leaves.

p.s. glad you picked gentoo as one of your links.... that'll be another dozen or so BSD guys who convert...

Re:Ceren, be my valentine! (-1, Offtopic)

Horny Smurf (590916) | more than 10 years ago | (#8281082)

I bet the lemonparty link causes more "conversions" than the gentoo link.

A letter to ESR (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8280871)

Shove it up your ass.

really (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8280872)

*BSD is DYING!

I LOVE LINH!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8280874)

WOOOOOOO! I'M SO COOL!!!!!

Java (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8280875)

ehh some things you don't want free

I THINK MY FEMALE KITTENS ARE LESBIANS (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8280876)

I have 6 kittens, 3 males and 3 females. To test their sexual orientation I decided to cram my dick up the male's asses and fuck the females. The 3 male cats certainly didn't like the sodomy experience, so I'm pretty sure they are straight. The problem is the 3 female cats didn't like getting fucked, so I simply have to assume they are lesbians since they don't like cock.

Re:I THINK MY FEMALE KITTENS ARE LESBIANS (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8280902)

Man, you Linux users are some really sick, mentally fucked up losers! Get a life... Actually, go kill yourself and make this world a better place.

java (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8280877)

sucks

Freedom...what's it all about? (-1)

ShockerFan (741511) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280879)

I mean, is it good or is it wack?

ESR = lunatic. (-1, Flamebait)

alex_ant (535895) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280884)

Who listens to this gasbag? He's almost worse than Jonkatz. Why is the open source community allowing such an obnoxious self-righteous psychopath to be its mouthpiece? If I were Scott McNealy I would tell him to go fuck one of his gun nozzles.

Re:ESR = lunatic. (2, Funny)

azzy (86427) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280921)

I thought this was a bit of a nasty post when I first read it. But then upon re-reading I note you didn't add that he should pull the trigger.. so not as nasty as it could have been, I'm a little relieved.

Re:ESR = lunatic. (-1, Troll)

coolgabe (729004) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280961)

Well said.

If Sun is on the ropes... (5, Insightful)

Alex Reynolds (102024) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280887)

...would you give away the only technology that might possibly save your company from bankrupcy?

Re:If Sun is on the ropes... (4, Insightful)

Urkki (668283) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280913)

But what if giving that away (at least partially) would actually be just the way to save the company from bankruptcy...?

Re:If Sun is on the ropes... (5, Insightful)

ultrabot (200914) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280946)

...would you give away the only technology that might possibly save your company from bankrupcy?

How do you expect them to cash in on Java?

It would be more beneficial for Sun to open up Java to combat the .Net threat. Or are they waiting for .Net to eat 30% of Javas lunch first?

As it stands, the choice b/w Java and .Net is a choice b/w two evils. Sun could stop .Net on it's tracks by opening up Java.

accurate picture (4, Insightful)

DavidNWelton (142216) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280975)

What portion of their revenue comes from what sources? How much does Java generate, and how? How much does developing it cost them?

It's hard to get an accurate picture without asking some questions like these and getting answers. Otherwise, you can't make an informed judgement.

Re:If Sun is on the ropes... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8280989)

So what if Redhat's share price is higher than SUN's? Whose market cap is larger? Who has a higher revenue stream?, Yes, SUN.

http://finance.yahoo.com/q/cq?s=RHAT+SUNW&d=v1

SUN's is almost 6 times larger than RHAT in term of market cap and that means SUN is almost 6 times more valuable as a company that RHAT in term of dollars!

Just as IBM makes money on Linux, so can SUN, but then again, so what does that have to do with JAVA, necessarily?

Even his asshole doubles in pain for the shit he stuff in his mouth.

"But the casual equation between "open source" and "zero revenue" suggests that on another level you don't really know what you're talking about. Open source is hardly a zero-revenue model; ask Red Hat, which had a share price over triple Sun's when I just checked. Or ask IBM, which is using Linux as a lever to build a huge systems-integration business in markets like financial services that Sun has historically owned."

Re:If Sun is on the ropes... (5, Insightful)

Repugnant_Shit (263651) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280993)

But they don't really make any money on it now. I can download all the tools I need straight from Sun's website.

The point of opening Java up is to let it become an official standard (much like ECMAScript or C#). Then other organizations (IBM, Eclipse, etc.) will be able to have more input on what goes into the official version of Java.

Re:If Sun is on the ropes... (1, Funny)

aled (228417) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280996)

but then ESR don't have a company and gives away his assets. All the market should hear his economical advise :-)

We dont need your stinkin java (4, Troll)

Organized Konfusion (700770) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280893)

If you have been following gcj's [gnu.org] progress recently it is maturing rapidly, just give those dirty gnu hippies a few more years they'll be on par with Sun's own implimentation.

Gcj is far more mature than mono [go-mono.com] is.

Re:We dont need your stinkin java (3, Insightful)

Espectr0 (577637) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280966)

As long as awt and swing are missing, gcj's is still in diapers.

Getting there. (5, Informative)

Organized Konfusion (700770) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280978)

Re:Getting there. (5, Informative)

Carl (12719) | more than 10 years ago | (#8281030)

And some screenshots of Free Swing [redhat.com] and Free AWT/2D [redhat.com] !

Re:We dont need your stinkin java (5, Informative)

Carl (12719) | more than 10 years ago | (#8281007)

Wait till you see what happens if you are truely Free to mix and match all that goodness! Sun and Microsoft would never allow something like combining Java and C#. But that is precisely what thos GNU-heads have been doing!

IBM has been much nicer with Eclipse [eclipse.org] . And You can now combine that, with GNU Classpath [gnu.org] and IKVM.NET [ikvm.net] to bring you Java Eclipse on Mono .NET! [ikvm.net] . Be free to mix and match the best of two languages. With Free Software you are free to do what some coorporations would never want to happen. Even if it is the best for developers and users!

Amazing! And of course you can just use java as a as a normal language [gnu.org] with GCC (gcj). We even have native eclipse [redhat.com] ! Super fast, no slow bytecode interpreter needed.

Go away Sun with you proprietary closed non-free java! We don't need you anymore.

Re:We dont need your stinkin java (4, Insightful)

robbyjo (315601) | more than 10 years ago | (#8281079)

If you have been following gcj's progress recently it is maturing rapidly, just give those dirty gnu hippies a few more years they'll be on par with Sun's own implimentation.

Two facts:

  • GCJ still far behind Sun's Javac. Lookie, they just "invent" ah so Java 1.2 Swing!
  • GCJ's progress is less than Sun's progress. See Java 1.5 maturing. I'm wondering when GCJ will catch up?


This lead me to conclude that GCJ would never catch Sun's level unless something drastic changes happen. Don't get me wrong, I like GCJ's idea and try to support it, but I firmly believe that they need to change to boost more progress.

why? (4, Insightful)

BobTheLawyer (692026) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280895)

What is the point of writing an open letter, particularly one as snarky as this? Does anybody think McNealy will see it, much less care?

Re:why? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8280922)

McNealy should care. Let's face it - .NET is taking over. The entire NHS contract in the UK was won by iSoft, and guess what their platform is going to be? That's right, .NET.

Just think, all of our healthcare data is now only as secure as .NET is...

I hate to see .NET taking over, and this seems like a good way to stop it.

Re:why? (5, Funny)

sh0gun (85858) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280932)

Umm, everyone in the world reads Slashdot so he will obviously see it.

Re:why? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8281010)

True that everybody reads slashdot, but as everybody else here I do not bother to RTFA ...

McNealy

Re:why? (4, Funny)

aled (228417) | more than 10 years ago | (#8281014)

Everyone we know in the world read Slashdot.

Re:why? (5, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280958)

The point of writing an open letter is usually to communicate to the masses, not the person named... making an offer the person named is likely to refuse for the sake of pointing out the refusal.

In this case, Raymond's pointing out that Sun likes to be friendly to the open source community, but they'll never release their crown jewel.

Re:why? (5, Insightful)

__past__ (542467) | more than 10 years ago | (#8281020)

This is ESR. He basically does nothing else but ranting, flaming and generally talking rubbish, mostly because he feels that he is the godlike prophet of some mythical geek tribe.

He never needed a point before.

And how... (-1, Flamebait)

easter1916 (452058) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280897)

would that possibly benefit Sun? Drop the hippie pipe dreams.

ubiquity or control (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8280898)

...but not both. Good point. Except that Microsoft seemed to have managed both with Windows, Office, etc.

SUN wont release (5, Insightful)

kyndig (579355) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280899)

SUN knows exactly what cards they hold in their deck. While the letter does point out that SUN has much to gain, it is filled with nothing more than well wishing and potential profits. SUN already owns the source, and it will take more than a "if we work togeather as friends" to get them to assist in the continued expansion of the Open Source community.

The cards are all in their deck. Open Source needs to provide something more profitable than a "cant we all get along" letter.

Money talks...

Re:SUN wont release (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8280935)

"Money talks..."

precisely what I was saying the other day when I was talking to a dollar bill...

Re:SUN wont release (1)

Urkki (668283) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280939)

No quite all the cards... They need to survive between free software and MS software. Trying to compete with MS with closed source software and closed technologies might not be the way...

Not gonna happen (4, Insightful)

IshanCaspian (625325) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280911)

What do you expect the guys at sun to do if they turn the development of Java over to the open-source community? Sure, open standards are great, and so is OSS, but don't forget, Sun is a commercial entity that needs to make money. Why would anyone invest in Sun or take them seriously when they don't exercise control over their flagship product anymore? If you want a free, open language, try using c++ with gcc. I'm sure the good folks at Sun like trying to make the best possible software, but you can't expect them to destroy their company for a shot at making their software even better.

Re:Not gonna happen (1)

VivianC (206472) | more than 10 years ago | (#8281061)

What do you expect the guys at sun to do if they turn the development of Java over to the open-source community?

I would expect them to maintain the main version of Java. They could watch the improvements made by the community and build the best one back into the product. It would develop much faster with more resources. If someone wanted to fork Java to take care of some specific task, fine. But the name still belongs to Sun. Even Microsoft could bring back their old Java stuff under the name MS Java. Of course, being open source, Microsoft would be required to release its changes to the public and the best could go back into Sun's Java.

I admit that I don't know what kind of revenue Sun derives from Java, but I don't think that it is huge. Improved, open Java could also lead to more improvements of the software built on top of it. Think about products like OpenOffice that could run on different OSs. If Sun is serious about SunLinux, a more accepted Java could be the base for cross-platform applications they could bundle with their Linux when they sell their hardware.

All good ideas, but not a sure thing. What would be the downside of opening Java?

Setting Java free (5, Insightful)

possible (123857) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280914)

Java is already more ubiquitious than C# -- so what would Sun stand to gain from setting it free? For all intents and purposes, it's as free as I need it to be. I have full access to the Sun's source code for the JVM and the Java classes. I can use it the JVM for free in commercial applications. I have many different virtual machine implementations to choose from, on a wide variety of platforms. I'm afraid that setting Java "free" is going to lead to future revisions of the language being designed by committee -- we don't need another C++ thank you very much.

Re:Setting Java free (5, Informative)

greenrd (47933) | more than 10 years ago | (#8281052)

JDK 1.5 already was largely designed by committe. Most of the major improvements were designed through the Java Community Process.

Once bitten, twice shy? (5, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280915)

Sun needs its tight control over Java in order to, well, tightly control it. Remember what happened when Microsoft tried to "embrace and extend" Java with Windows extentions, Sun was able to kick Microsoft completely out of the Java business.

Open Source would allow Microsoft to create WinJava so long as they released the source, which might not be that hard of a thing to do. I don't think Sun wants to go there...

Re:Once bitten, twice shy? (2, Insightful)

petabyte (238821) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280943)

Remember what happened when Microsoft tried to "embrace and extend" Java with Windows extentions, Sun was able to kick Microsoft completely out of the Java business.

They released C# to directly challenge Java. I think the word "kick" is a misnomer. MS decided to go with its own language in place of Java.

Poor MS... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8280962)

Sun was able to kick Microsoft completely out of the Java business. ...and MS was able to remove Java support from its default installation and blame Sun for forcing it out!

Yeah, that was really good for Java, and really helped it to compete against C#.

Re:Once bitten, twice shy? (1)

Repugnant_Shit (263651) | more than 10 years ago | (#8281011)

Microsoft already does this with J#. The issue here is Java being an open standard, just like C#, and not the soruce.

Re:Once bitten, twice shy? (2, Interesting)

listen (20464) | more than 10 years ago | (#8281018)

Sun was able to kick Microsoft completely out of the Java business.

Wow, that worked really well for Sun didn't it? Have you not noticed that all of the Microsofties are going around screaming about .Net and C# all the time now? Its hard to convince these people that Java has any advantage once you realise that
  1. Giving limitless amounts of money to MS is fine with them.
  2. They honestly beleive that visual studio .Net is the best IDE ever ( because they only compare it to the last version..)
  3. They feel that it is good that their code only works on Windows.

Sun prompting MS to produce a Java clone/alternative was a bad idea.... you know, the whole keep your enemies closer thing.

Re:Once bitten, twice shy? (4, Insightful)

Tim Browse (9263) | more than 10 years ago | (#8281049)

They honestly beleive that visual studio .Net is the best IDE ever

Out of interest, would you name some better IDEs..?

Re:Once bitten, twice shy? (1)

tommck (69750) | more than 10 years ago | (#8281057)

Seriously... I'm waiting for an aswer on this one too. I've never seen any better IDEs than the ones Microsoft makes.

Re:Once bitten, twice shy? (2, Insightful)

SwansonMarpalum (521840) | more than 10 years ago | (#8281083)

Eclipse [eclipse.org]

WinJava? (1)

j3110 (193209) | more than 10 years ago | (#8281053)

Oh, that's what they are calling .Net today.

Re:Once bitten, twice shy? (5, Insightful)

J. J. Ramsey (658) | more than 10 years ago | (#8281065)

"Sun needs its tight control over Java in order to, well, tightly control it. Remember what happened when Microsoft tried to "embrace and extend" Java with Windows extentions, Sun was able to kick Microsoft completely out of the Java business."

Sun's leverage was not its control over the source to the JVM, but that the Java standard was well enough defined that it could be established that MS's extensions were out of compliance with the standard, and thus MS could not legally call their J++ VM "Java."

"Open Source would allow Microsoft to create WinJava so long as they released the source, which might not be that hard of a thing to do. I don't think Sun wants to go there..."

Why not, especially if Sun were allowed to reincorporate MS's extensions into the "canonical" JVM? "Embrace, extend, and extinguish" is only a good strategy if one can own the extensions. A properly drafted copyleft license would have made Java open enough to be a commodity while discouraging incompatible proprietary extensions.

Comeon! (4, Funny)

jeffkjo1 (663413) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280916)

Comeon McNealy! Follow Microsofts lead, set java free!

Re:Comeon! (1)

maniac_inside (725792) | more than 10 years ago | (#8281066)

I am not sure, why you are saying this, AFAIK, microsofts C# is a completly propietry product, and so is Java.

Microsoft insurance (4, Insightful)

Arslan ibn Da'ud (636514) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280920)

I always thought Sun's tight control over Java was so that they could keep Microsoft from polluting it, using their usual 'embace, extend, extinguish' method.

After all, Sun did force MS to change their product name from Java to J++, since it did not follow the spec.

Even if such a tragedy would not recur, can you blame Sun for being paranoid?

Re:Microsoft insurance (1)

ultrabot (200914) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280979)

I always thought Sun's tight control over Java was so that they could keep Microsoft from polluting it, using their usual 'embace, extend, extinguish' method.

Well, I guess that threat is gone now. MSFT doesn't even acknowledge that Java exists anymore.

Re:Microsoft insurance (1)

Jameth (664111) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280988)

That's trademark, not copyright. They could do that anyway.

Actually a good idea (4, Insightful)

!Squalus (258239) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280923)

Setting Java Free was actually Gosling's idea first, but the idea is correct. It should be free as in open source.

Maybe the critical path to being able to think simply involves being able to listen to ideas regardless of your personal feelings toward the messenger? Give the ideas some thought - it makes sense.

If you really want Java to be free (5, Insightful)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280994)

If you really want Java to be free, work on the Open Source implementations.

Sun is not in a position to make things free for strategic reasons. Their mandate is that every project within Sun must make money. Period. And yes, I know this will sink the company eventually. They are stuck in a short-term profit mentality and there is little we can do about it.

The Open Source implementations of Java are coming along well, and could catch up with a little help.

Thanks

Bruce

Does anyone take ESR seriously anymore? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8280925)

(At least he didn't mention his weapons collection... Or write any more "poetry.)

It's not gonna happen! (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8280928)

Java is a major part of Sun, and they're not going to give that up, ever. While they'll be as open as necessary (Java Community Process, free access to view source code of Java, etc), they stop at giving up corporate control of Java.

Microsoft are just the same with C#, they're just being slightly more deceitful about it -- they try and say C# is "more open" than Java, but when it comes down to it, both languages and frameworks are owned by their corporate master.

Good old Eric... (1, Funny)

Dawn Keyhotie (3145) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280931)

He always has a point. Yes, it is definitely time for Java to grow up, go out into the world, and make it on its own.

Eric makes good analogies between Java and NFS, and Java and Jini.

SO there. Nothing insightful, just a quick "Me, too!".

Cheers!

Sun's in a Messy Spot (2, Insightful)

Jameth (664111) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280934)

On the one hand, Java is Sun's big remaining product, so they need to keep it theirs. On the other, the less it is used the less they can make off it, and loosening the grip will make more people use it.

Also, they need to keep an eye on the open-source implementations. If they squeeze too hard, many people will jump onto the GCJ project and possibly cut them out entirely (just like GCC really cut-out a lot of C compilers).

They either loose their revenue source, devalue their revenue source, or destroy their revenue source. There's no good thing for Sun to do here.

What ESR is really saying here... (3, Insightful)

Chordonblue (585047) | more than 10 years ago | (#8281060)

...is: No more fence-sitting for you Sun! They simply can't have things both ways. Yes, OOo is a terrific project, but on the other hand they are feeding the SCO troll. In press releases they now expound on the virtues of open source - but their flagship Java, isn't.

Consistency is what ESR is pointing to here. Maybe it isn't his business to make any demands of Sun, but he's seen their past corporate history which is chock-full of missed opportunities.

If Sun doesn't fully embrace open source, others will, and have. Whether or not this makes a huge difference depends on your own opinion. Personally, I think they're on the right road with this Java Desktop thing. They've already had some high profile wins and it's a great corporate counter-balance to Windows on the desktop.

What has ESR done in the past 3 years? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8280938)

Other than a failed linux kernel config system and a book what has ESR done in the past 3 years?

The letter (-1, Redundant)

MetaMarty (38276) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280940)

An open letter to Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun, responding to remarks at Sun's February 2004 analyst meeting.

The open-source community has been hearing reports that you have recently said of Sun Microsystem's strategy "The open-source model is our friend". We're glad to hear that, and Sun's support of OpenOffice.org certainly puts some weight behind the claim. But that support is curiously inconsistent, spotty in ways which suggests that Sun is confused in the way it thinks about and executes its open-source strategy.

That confusion is evident in another of your quotes. Many of us think you are right on when you say that "Sun [...] is less threatened by a zero-revenue model for software than just about anybody out there." We agree that the potential for you in using open-source software as a value multiplier for Sun's hardware business is huge. This wouldn't even be a novel move for Sun; your release of the NFS standards in 1984 was possibly the single most successful market-shaping maneuver in your company's history, and we'd love to help you repeat it.

But the casual equation between "open source" and "zero revenue" suggests that on another level you don't really know what you're talking about. Open source is hardly a zero-revenue model; ask Red Hat, which had a share price over triple Sun's when I just checked. Or ask IBM, which is using Linux as a lever to build a huge systems-integration business in markets like financial services that Sun has historically owned.

It doesn't have to be this way. If Sun were prepared to go all the way with open source it could seize back its position of industry leadership. Sun is one of a small handful of companies that would both have the smarts and the street cred to do even better than IBM has from a full-fledged alliance with the open-source community. Indeed, on historical grounds you might do better; many of the senior people in the movement are old-time Unix hackers who remember that Sun was founded by geeks like us at a time when IBM was the Great Satan.

But Sun has done other things that make us wonder if the vision and courage to choose the open-source path are really there. The suspicion persists that OpenOffice.org is just an expedient way to poke Microsoft in the eye, not the cutting edge of a open-source-friendly strategy that will position Sun for the future. Matters aren't helped by the fact that Sun appears, with Microsoft, to be one of the two companies doing most to stuff SCO's war chest for its attack on Linux.

In 1987, three years after the success of NFS, Sun lost the war to define the standard graphics interface for the next generation. The winner, the X Window System, was technically inferior to Sun's NeWS offering. But X had one critical advantage; it was open source. Ten years later in 1997, when Bill Joy came to a Linux conference to push Jini as a universal network-service protocol, we in the open-source community told him straight up "You can have ubiquity or you can have control. Pick one." He picked control, and Jini failed in its promise. The contrast with NFS could hardly be more stark.

Today, the big issue is Java. Sun's insistence on continuing tight control of the Java code has damaged Sun's long-term interests by throttling acceptance of the language in the open-source community, ceding the field (and probably the future) to scripting-language competitors like Python and Perl. Once again the choice is between control and ubiquity, and despite your claim that "open source is our friend" Sun appears to be choosing control. Sun's terms are so restrictive that Linux distributions cannot even include Java binaries for use as a browser plugin, let alone as a standalone development tool.

Mr. CEO, tear down that wall. You have millions of potential allies out here in the open-source community who would love to become Java developers and users if it didn't mean ceding control of their future to Sun. If you're serious about being a friend of open source, if you're serious about preparing Sun for the future we can all see coming in which code secrecy and proprietary lock-in will no longer be viable strategies, prove it. Let Java go.

Eric S, Raymond
President, Open Source Initiative
12 Feb 2004

Bull!!!! (0, Interesting)

OYAHHH (322809) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280941)

ESR,

Should keep his big mouth shut. Sun has put a ton of effort into making Java what it is today and it's a great product.

Of course Java has issues but what doesn't.

Java came along in the mid nineties and it was obvious that this language was what C++ should have been all along.

What does ESR want Java to become? Another language driven by the whims of a few programmers (probably picking their nose and doing some sort of thesis on the side) who have no idea what corporate computing really demands.

When ESR can contribute something as good as Java to the programming community at large then I'll listen to anything he has to say.

My problem with Eric and other similar advocates (2, Interesting)

October_30th (531777) | more than 10 years ago | (#8281042)

My problem with Eric and people like him is that they seem to believe that opening any source is always, categorically, the only Right Choice.

That's the kind of "you're either with us or against us" mentality I definitely don't want to see in the open source community.

It's the mindset of a fanatic.

Why have Java (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8280942)

When you can have Parrot [parrotcode.org] instead?

Seriously? With a common runtime for many languages such as Perl, Python, Ruby, etc, I don't see why anyone would need to use Java any longer.

What!? (2, Interesting)

tanveer1979 (530624) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280953)

Java Free?
Hello Mr. ESR, "freedom for freedom's sake?"

Yes they are pros, but they are cons also for every argument. Gaining friends? what are you talking about? Yes setting Java free would make java a little better or maybe a lot better, only time will tell. But can Sun afford to do it. And it is not that Sun is one crappy guy who is forcing Java on people. Java is not bad. it is kinda okay too. I agree with allowing linux distros to include Java, but setting it open source may be good for Open Source community, but certainly a very very bad move for sun. Maybe 5 years down the like if sun regains server market share, churns out a killer processor, be the server king again, then yes it may make sense to make some portions Open Source. But till then it got to hang on, and i guess it will.

Open what? (5, Insightful)

D-Cypell (446534) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280959)

The Sun SDK comes with sources to the standard API classes, there are alternative opensource virtual machines and compilers available for Java and changes to the environment are made via the community process.

What is it that is being ask of Sun here?

Even in GPL style open source development there is a central core of people who decide which patches make it into the product and which dont.

I see absolutely nothing wrong with the way Sun are managing Java as long as it remains freely available.

As for 1.5 helping to 'level the playing field' with C#, I dont think suitable credit is being given here. Java is ahead of C# in the vast majority of ways that count. All C# has done is formalize well know design patterns into syntax (delegates vs observer pattern). This is not worthy of accolade.

Make no mistake, it is Microsoft that is playing the catch-up game!

Re:Open what? (1)

0x0d0a (568518) | more than 10 years ago | (#8281069)

Java is ahead of C# in the vast majority of ways that count.

Please list these. I am not aware of them. I do not doubt their existence, but because C# is an MS project, I have avoided it. I know of a number of problems with Java, some at a fundamental level, and I'd like to see how you think Java is better than C#. I've heard fairly upbeat things about C# when compared to Java from the (rather distinguished) language people I've talked to. Any input that you could give would be appreciated, as I would very much like to dislike C#. :-)

He's got a point... (1)

I confirm I'm not a (720413) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280967)

With dotnet the choice boils down to completely closed-source (Microsoft) or completely open-source (Mono [go-mono.com] ).

Sun's half-arsed approach, cosy-up to open-source but keep Sun Java closed, has resulted in only limited attepmts to produce an open Java; why bother, since Sun seem friendly-enough?

Sun needs to start recognising dotnet as a threat and respond appropriately. Choose sides. Open or closed.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8280971)

Why are you so proud of being able to invade countries that are significantly smaller than you? Several times I have heard Americans on Xbox Live etc say that you could easily invade Canada.

Guess what you've proved to the world that you can indeed invade countries that are significantly smaller than you population wise. Is this something meant to impress people? This is equivalent of saying "Hey I'm 25 I can beat up 5 year olds". Canada has a population of 30 million and a military force of 78,000 personel. There's a navy base in San Diego with that many people stationed at it.

The fact that you could invade us is not impressive, scary or anything else it's kind of funny that you like to point it out all the time. So please go pick on a country your own size for once. Pick a fight with China or Russia or something.

Well, maybe they will listen to him (4, Interesting)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280972)

Because noone is listenning [slashdot.org] to my rants anyway.

I I posted it a few times [kuro5hin.org] maybe ESR read it? :)

Well, I am posting it last time now.

I would like to see GNU/Linux to become a more powerful platform and by a more powerful platform I mean a platform that provides the user with a pleasant experience. Now, to provide a pleasant experience a platform must give the user a choice - a choice of applications that exist for the platform is a step in the right direction. However, GNU/Linux is not such a platform yet. If it were, it would have been embraced by the masses already and it is not. There are a few things that GNU/Linux system is lacking and one of the more important lacking components is a convenient tool that allows a novice create his/her own software for the platform, software that easily manipulates data imported from multiple sources and allows to create graphical interfaces to that data. In the Microsoft this functionality is provided by such a ubiquitous tool as Visual Basic. In the Free Software world there are many tools that are extremely powerful but none of them have the same kind of momentum that Visual Basic delivers on Microsoft platform. VB is taught at schools, it is the language of macros under MS platform.

To answer the question- "What can be the VB for Free Software?" we need to look at the kind of problems that will have to be solved by this tool. The problems solved by VB are of many kinds, but for the general public VB provides the bridge that closes the gap between a user and a multitude of small problems that the user wants to solve. Of-course it is possible to just create a VB IDE for FS platforms but I believe there is a more interesting solution to this problem and it is Java. Just like VB, Java runs in a virtual machine, so the user will never really have direct access to any hardware resources, but an abstract layer of JVM can provide a nice buffer between the user and the hardware and at the same time Java will always behave in the same way on multiple other platforms, including Windows. Java is an OO language but at the same time it is very easy to write functions in Java (static everything). Java has thousands of convenience libraries, there is enough Free Software written for Java that can be integrated into an IDE. However there is a big problem with the language itself - it is not Free.

Sun allows anyone to use Java for free but nobody can modify the language itself except for Sun. In order for Java to become for Free Software and Gnu/Linux what VB became for Microsoft, Java has to be Freed and put out under the GPL. There is also probably a good business sense in it for the Sun Microsystems as well - their language suddenly becomes the language of choice for millions and thousands will work on improving the language, the virtual machine, the compiler etc. In this case Sun will stay in a position that Linus finds himself in - they become the gate-keepers for the vanilla Java tree, but Java will branch and will become much more spread than it is right now. Sun can capitalize on that by providing more Java based solutions and services.

Now it is likely that Sun management will not agree to the change of their Java's status, however, if there was an immediately profitable reason for them to do this, they just may turn around and start thinking about it. A reason that is profitable could be a large sum of cash available to them upon releasing Java under the GPL. Where could this money come from? These money could be collected by the FS and OS supporters, the developers and the users who would like to see more momentum in the GNU/Linux movement towards a successful (wide spread) desktop solution. I suppose no one will seriously object to have one more powerful tool in their Free Software tool-bag. Java can be this tool and it can be just the thing needed to tip the scales over towards quick appearance of a useful and a popular GNU/Linux desktop.

* I use Free to mean Free Software (Libre) and I use free to mean free of charge.

Re:Well, maybe they will listen to him (4, Insightful)

ultrabot (200914) | more than 10 years ago | (#8281023)

"What can be the VB for Free Software?"

That's easy to answer. Python. Java is too low level for RAD, and quite possibly won't be Free Software in the predictable future.

While I am at it (3, Interesting)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 10 years ago | (#8281031)

(I wrote this yesterday and tried to post it as an article on /., but apparently there are so many more interesting and better written articles posted on the front page here that mine did not meet the qualifications to be posted. Or maybe it is just so off-topic and does not represent any real new ideas or news for nerds, you know, no stuff that matters is expressed in it, so don't read it.)

I am sure that all of you would agree that the free software community has been facing some bad publicity since the entire SCO incident started about a year ago. I am also sure that when the SCO goes away another publicity stunt will be performed by some other corporation or an entity that could potentially cause more trouble. An earlier article [slashdot.org] on /. reminded us that there are other dangers that could stall the development of free software projects - an illegally distributed application source base can become the next battlefield for the free source community. Whether this source code could be distributed with an intent to contaminate is not the issue, the issue is that it is important to convey the message to the public that this community does not want to contaminate its source code with proprietary software. We know that the Linux kernel for example is maintained by a group of people who would never want to be faced with the problem of proving in the court of law that their creation is really their own code. What about other projects? How many lawsuits are comming towards this community? I do not know that. But I understand that some preventative measures should be taken, some measures that will clearly display that this community wants free software and free software will not be stolen from other source bases.

How can this be ensured and how can it be easily shown in a court of law that this community takes copyright issues seriously? One way that I see is to set up a server that runs the comparator [catb.org] by ESR against any new submission to any open source project against any code released either by mistake on with malice by a closed source vendor.

This will help to identify copyright problems before they arise. Of course to have a proprietary source code base on this server would probably be illegal in itself but it is unnecessary to have the proprietary source code, all that is needed is a set of hash-keys that identify that source code.

How could this work? A copyright protection server (CPS) would have hash-keys supplied by different vendors of software that falls into various categories and the free software projects are also divided into these categories. Let's say there is a free software project that deals with image manipulations. The CPS would run a hash-key generator on the new code submission and then would compare the generated keys with the keys supplied by Adobe or other companies specialized in image manipulations. Of-course the closed source companies would have to run the hash-key generators on their code and supply their keys, and someone has to tell them to do that, but if it is done right then the following would happen:

1. The Free Software community would have better protection from inappropriate code submissions.

2. This can be publicised and shown that the Free Software community takes their work seriously and goes to the great length, much more than any corporations to make sure that their code is Free and free of inappropriate submissions.

3. In a court of law this can be very useful, it shows good faith on the part of the free software community.

4. This would make it easier to also figure out whether the closed source vendors are misusing GPLed software :)

5. This makes a nice project that can be commercialized (with all the lates IP propaganda and lawsuites.)

6. This hopefully will prevent many possible infringement claims.

Well, this is just a thought, but I think this kind of verification will become part of reality at some point in the future, given more lawsuites.

Any thoughts, comments, suggestions, ideas?

Re:Well, maybe they will listen to him (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8281038)

He he, you are clearly off-topic here!

What's up with him? (2, Insightful)

mentin (202456) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280981)

At least when Karl Marx whote his Communist Manifesto, whe realized that rich will not give their money to poor themselves, and proposed revolutions to get those money - that poor should take "what belongs to them" (according to Karl Marx).

Instead of taking, Eric Raymond thinks he can just ask rich to give all they have and earned?

Re:What's up with him? (3, Funny)

__past__ (542467) | more than 10 years ago | (#8281059)

Well, he is a gun nut...

I agree but.. (1)

pt99par (588458) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280987)

There must be a standardisation organization to controll the evolution of the java language so that it doesnt split up in to many fractions..

This guy doesn't understand Java. (3, Insightful)

deanj (519759) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280995)

This letter looks more like a bitch-fest than a serious open letter.

Anyone can implement their own version of Java. The spec is right out there. I encourage ESR to put his money where is mouth is, and do his own implementation if he's that concerned about it.

J2EE is doing great. Jini has a strong community behind it, and companies are using it.

If he's that concerned, he should quit trying to muscle companies into doing what he wants, get millions of dollars together, and then give it to programmers to do his bidding.

Though, if some one doesn't have... (1)

freidog (706941) | more than 10 years ago | (#8280997)

final and absolute control over what is in Java, or even what Java is, don't we degrade the idea of compile once, run anywhere?

I'm all for a more open Java, especially if it leads more developer control of what goes into Java, and wider acceptance.
But in the end, it must be overseen by some one, right now it's SUN, and Java must be Java, regardless of where you're getting the JVM, or where you're writing the code. Without that central control we risk more J++'s. "mostly java, but 'better', so it doesn't work with SUN Java..."

ESR gets the booby prize (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8281000)

Dear Mr. Raymond,

Thank you for kind letter, but No way! Please accept this complementary javastation instead. We still have much inventory of these for some reason.

Free Leonard Peltier! (4, Funny)

The Lynxpro (657990) | more than 10 years ago | (#8281002)



Oops. Wait. Wrong freedom fest... :)

Don't do it! (4, Insightful)

ybmug (237378) | more than 10 years ago | (#8281013)

I like the fact that there is only one "branch" of java. I can write a program once and compile it anywhere. I hate C++ because I need #ifdef's everywhere in my code just so I can build it on other platforms/compilers. If someone feels that it is lacking, they should get involved in Sun's community.

Just my $.02

Control is the game (2, Insightful)

OffTheLip (636691) | more than 10 years ago | (#8281015)

Sun is a public company answering to stock holders and Scott McNeely is a businessman. Relinquishing control of a company product withthe name recognition of Java is a gamble even a 'rogue" businessman like McNeely would be unlikely to do.

Examples (1)

robbyjo (315601) | more than 10 years ago | (#8281019)

ESR seems to pick X vs NeWS and Jini. Note that at that time both examples are still in conception and relatively lack of adherents.

If you want to gain support rapidly, Open Source seems to win. However, things that already been established like Java, it is not necessarily like that, because Java has a lot of adherents and it's a mature platform already. Try to tell the same story for Windows or MS Office and see how Bill Gates would fall laughing.

And potential revenue multiplier is moot. Potential remains potential until it can be realized. Do you think that by open-sourcing Java would increase the sales for Sun's hardware? Give me a break.... Everyone knows that Java can run in any platform. The hardware platform selection to run Java squarely depends on price/performance and need.

Ok. Who has the t-shirts? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8281024)

Set Java Free!

End indentured servitude!

And it works on so many levels. Those Starbucks-sippin' twenty-somethings who think Apple==freedom will think you are a cool and hip political activist taking a stand on living wages for South American coffee harvesters!

Score!

Java is a crappy language (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8281029)

I'd rather it stayed non-free, means some programmers don't fall into the java trap and can discover actually cool languages like lisp or ml...

WTF? (5, Insightful)

0x0d0a (568518) | more than 10 years ago | (#8281034)

Okay, ESR is writing an open letter to a CEO of Sun. Why the *hell* is he comparing Red Hat and Sun by *share price*? Share price means effectively nothing when comparing company worth -- market capitalization is what should be looked at, as it takes into account the number of shares. RHAT's market cap is impressive, but it's still 1/6th Sun's, not the three times Sun's value that ESR implies when comparing share prices.

So, there are two possibilities that I see here.

A) ESR is unaware of the difference between share price and market cap. This seems a pretty awful knowledge hole. If he doesn't know, he just made himself look pretty dumb in front of some major business folks while advising them on business strategy. It's pretty embarrassing to consider that ESR can't even have had a savvy person read over his letters before he tries to speak for the open source community.

B) ESR knows what the difference is, and is hoping that "three times" sounds better. Since there is no *way* that ESR can fool a CEO into blindly going along with him (if there's one thing a CEO of a publically traded company knows, it's stock value), he must be putting this in the letter for the masses of people that are completely unversed in market economics, which pretty means *maybe* some high school and below kids. This is nothing more than a propaganda job. I'd view this as extremely disappointing, coming from someone who I consider capable of putting out good, straight arguments about open source. Propaganda does not work well on online forums. A few people inevitably punch holes in it, other folks spread the problems, and your argument is left without any meat. It happens to Microsoft all the time.

Either way, it's a disturbingly unprofessional job. It reads like some of the worse "I just sent this in to the company" Slashdot posts. For someone who is concerned about the business credibility of open source, ESR sure as hell isn't holding up his end of things.

He compares, in an incredibly simplified manner, three projects that Sun has done (throwing out all but one factor -- whether they were open source), and then claims that Sun should free Java. That's absurd. Sun execs will have gone over this in far more detail many times before, and the only thing this does is ensure that ESR emails go in the wastebasket. The fact that this letter is open makes it doubly embarassing.

I have deep respect for the work that ESR has done, and I like his famous study "The Cathedral and the Bazar". However, I really wish he'd refrain from writing open letters, or at *least* show them to a couple of people before blasting them off.

Sun's opinion of GNU/Linux (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8281041)


Hey Sun, we know what you think of GNU/Linux. Unix will be back. Really, it will! Everything is beautiful! Don't worry! Be happy! Customers will return to Solaris one day! After all, if Schwartz said it, [newsforge.com] it must be true.

Schwartz, however, sees the fad of Linux wearing off in big businesses.


"There will be a transition back to Solaris," he said [theregister.co.uk]


and even Scott is a believer:

The "fad will wear off, and big business will come back [techtarget.com] to solaris".

Sun, don't worry, everything is great. Everybody else should wake up and smell the java [newsforge.com]

But.. how safe a business decision is this?? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Meoward (665631) | more than 10 years ago | (#8281058)

Java should be opened up to the community, with compatibility standards strictly and ruthlessly enforced.

And maybe, just maybe, .Net could help it along.

The original reason for McNealy's reluctance to open up Java was the "embrace and extend" philosophy we all know so well from Redmond. But, could we expect MS to bother trying to modify Java and develop .Net at the same time?

MS could do it, they have the re$ources, but.. can they afford the mixed message it would send? "Java sucks, use .Net instead.. oh wait, here's our version of Java.."

Opening up Java could work, but only if MS is 100% committed to .Net, and if an officially open Java implementation wins overwhelming community support.

In short, don't expect Sun to open up Java until Microsoft runs the risk of falling into the "sunk cost trap". McNealy is probably well aware of this too..

Who cares? (0, Flamebait)

slurpburp (747225) | more than 10 years ago | (#8281071)

Fsck Java, python was BORN free!

ESR should take a finance course (5, Informative)

jsburke (264711) | more than 10 years ago | (#8281084)

'But the casual equation between "open source" and "zero revenue" suggests that on another level you don't really know what you're talking about. Open source is hardly a zero-revenue model; ask Red Hat, which had a share price over triple Sun's when I just checked.'

ESR's casual equation between "share price" and "value" suggests that he doesn't really know what he's talking about. Sun's market cap is 6 times Red Hat's!

But this is nitpicking. His larger point is good.
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