JCP needs more members for next-stage Java evolution

Conference calls for more involvement in the Java Community Process

Sun sent a strong message to developers at its recent JavaOne conference — join the JCP (Java Community Process) programme.

Sun Microsystems’ chief executive, Jonathan Schwartz, told attendees at last month’s San Francisco conference that Sun’s primary objective is to grow the JCP community.

The programme, introduced by Sun in 1998, is an open process and aims to develop and revise Java technology specifications, reference implementations and technology compatibility kits (TCKs). The idea behind it is that the international Java community should participate in the evolution of Java.

Currently, the JCP has 1,052 individual and company members. IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Apple, Oracle and JBoss are among the commercial members, but most members are individual developers.

“One category we would like to see participate more is the typical end-user, such as grocery chains, banks and retailers,” says Onno Kluyt, chair of the JCP. “If they can make their voices heard in the process we can make sure that the technology [JCP] is standardising is technology that matters to them.”

Sun wants to see more JCP members so it can create more market opportunities.

“Our competitors need to be part of the JCP because our combined efforts create a market that is bigger than each of us and that creates opportunity for all of us,” says Kluyt. “Certainly, we have commercial interests, but, having said that, the method of communities is very natural to Sun. We are much better at operating and collaborating with others in an open environment than a closed one.”

The community philosophy has a long history at Sun and is based on an old quote by Bill Joy, who co-founded Sun in 1982. “He said, ‘The smartest people don’t work for you’. No matter how big your organisation is there are always smart people elsewhere as well. If you can find a way to access those smart people, and their ideas, you can increase everybody’s chance of success.” says Kluyt.

Anyone can join the JCP — and participate at all levels, says Kluyt. Membership is free for individuals. For companies, the annual fee is US$5,000 (NZ$8,000); for not-for-profits, US$2,000.

Members can influence Java’s development by submitting and providing feedback on Java Specification Requests; nominating themselves or others to expert groups that create specifications; building independent implementations; or voting, or nominating others, for the two executive committees — these oversee the work of the expert groups.

“The JCP is the place to learn about the direction of Java technology and it is also very much the place to influence that direction,” says Kluyt. “The JCP is the place where Sun will have to listen, so that, hopefully, the technology … aligns to what your needs are.”

Around 40% of JCP members are in the US, followed by the UK, Germany and Japan. Kluyt says that the JCP owes part of its success to the fact that it develops where innovation is happening and where expertise exists.

One of Kluyt’s challenges involves getting competing computer, software and cellphone companies to get together and contribute their ideas. He talks about a “growing ecology” within which companies both compete and answer the call from the community to create compatible Java technology that can be implemented by many companies.

“We have created a system where we all agree upon the bigger call — the evolution of the compatible Java technology,” he says.

Kluyt is unworried that the JCP could get overcrowded. “There are around four to five million Java developers and not all of them will be interested in how to create APIs [application programming interfaces] … There are two kinds of developers: those interested in how the plumbing works and those who just want to be successful using it.”

The planned open-sourcing of Java will not affect the JCP much, he says. “Open source is already a part of JCP.”

When the JCP started in 1998 open source, as a business model and as a methodology, was not accepted, says Kluyt. “By 2002 that had changed … JCP adapted to that change and made sure that open source was a way to implement the standards from the JCP.”

Other things will now influence Java’s future evolution, including the demand for dynamic features like interaction, wikis and RSS feeds, says Kluyt.

— Hedquist travelled to San Francisco courtesy of Sun Microsystems

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