What If You Threw a Proprietary Software Party and Nobody Came?

by Ostatic Staff - Nov. 10, 2010

What if you threw a tupperware party and nobody came? Well, that might cost you some sales, but it's an entirely different thing to spend billions to acquire a prominent, public U.S. technology company--along with its many open source software projects--and then find that people might not attend the ensuing party. That's how things seem to be shaping up for Oracle, a company that steadfastly maintained its dedication to preserving open source projects and open standards as it swallowed up Sun Microsystems in an acquisition, then behaved much differently in the wake of the acquisition. The latest organization to threaten non-attendance at Oracle's party is the Apache Software Foundation.

The Apache Software Foundation (ASF) has issued a threat to leave the Java Community Process if Oracle doesn't change some of its practices as steward of Java, which Oracle CEO Larry Ellison cited as the crown technology jewel in his company's acquisition of Sun Microsystems. ZDNet calls out the key paragraph in Apache's threat:

"The ASF will terminate its relationship with the JCP if our rights as implementers of Java specifications are not upheld by the JCP Executive Committee to the limits of the EC’s ability. The lack of active, strong and clear enforcement of those rights implies that the JSPA agreements are worthless, confirming that JCP specifications are nothing more than proprietary documentation."

 I also took notice of this sentence in the Apache missive, because it gets to the heart of the matter and because it is one of those remarkably long sentences that still manages to hold together:

"In light of Oracle Corporation failing to uphold their responsibilities as a Specification Lead under the JSPA and breaking their signed covenants with the Apache Software Foundation that are the conditions under which we agreed to participate in the JCP, we call upon the Executive Committee of the JCP to continue its clear, strong and public support for Java as an open specification ecosystem that is a level playing field for participants in order to ensure that anyone -- any individual or commercial, academic or non-profit entity -- is able to implement and distribute Java specifications under terms of their choice."

Let's not forget that Java, like the Linux kernel, has moved along over the years thanks to contributions and community participation from many deep-pocketed organizations, including Google and the Apache Software Foundation. Now, Oracle is suing Google over aspects of Java, which we've already dubbed "the anti-open move of the year." Under Oracle, questions swirl around the future of Java in ways that they never did under Sun, and, because of the many open source projects that Oracle acquired along with Sun, Oracle's ability to shake openness in general goes well beyond Java.

We've also noted that as Oracle has taken over stewardship of OpenOffice, many developers have resigned and the project is forking. How many lawsuits, threats and adjustments of major financial contributions is it going to take before Oracle adjusts its policies toward openness?