|By Joe Winchester||
|December 14, 2006 12:00 PM EST||
The year 2006 marked the tenth anniversary of the Java language and for me is the most significant in its history.
The most important event was the announcement that a GPL version of Java SE will be available sometime in the first half of 2007. If nothing else, all the back and forth "will they, won't they" discussions over open source have been a distraction for the Java community. They also provided a source of FUD to those who don't believe in Java, enabling them to describe the community as divided, fragmented, and imploding under its own mass of internal fighting. I don't believe for a second that any of this was actually occurring; however, some customers I spoke with did have this perception of divided community. Far from it, the Java community is an incredibly healthy place where the pace of innovation and ability to adapt occurs faster than in any other technology space. The ingredients for this are the mixture of mom and pop teams who create elegant and nimble frameworks that become overnight de facto ways to do validation, navigation, or persistence, while working hand in hand with large organizations whose stock value is based on reliability, serviceability, and portability of the language. Every JavaOne question and answer session I've attended over the years invariably had someone in the audience standing up and berating an onstage developer for a particular bug that hadn't been fixed for the last n years. The answer was always one of prioritization and that the development team had more line items than they could accomplish with the available resources. For the questioner it's an answer akin to, "Your top problem didn't make our top 500." Now the reply can be, "Would you like to be a committer? Would you like to help us do some testing with our release so we can verify your patch?" It's welcoming, it's inclusive, it's how to move things forward, and for me it's the fuel for the feedback loop that makes open source community projects become better at a rate that equals the number of smart, willing, and motivated users.
The third most significant event for me in 2006 goes jointly to Eclipse and NetBeans.
Eclipse celebrated its fifth birthday as an open source project, and it's one that has gone from strength to strength each year. I've been fortunate to have been involved with Eclipse from the outset and the thing that pleases me most each year at their annual EclipseCon conference is how the buzz and excitement moves and changes around. One year Web tools are the hot topic, the next year it's the rich client platform. Not only does the technology's focus shift, but the people do too, as new companies and new stars shape and drive its future.
NetBeans is often seen by some as a rival to Eclipse and vice versa, viewpoints I used to hold myself. I regard them differently now, with NetBeans holding the battle standard for Java, giving it a sweet-tasting all important out-of-the-box first kiss experience, a platform that keeps pace with the latest JSRs and language features so they are showcased in IDE samples and tooling rather than PDF specifications; a tool is to Java what VisualStudio is to the Microsoft runtimes. For Java to remain relevant and grow in the next 10 years, we have to look at those companies in whose interests it is to see us fail, work out what makes them successful, and compete with them on their own fronts. The key battles will be fought in ease of use, growth and adoption by customers who feel confident and secure in its future, and adaptability to new scenarios. Java's tenth year laid down some very firm roots to enable it to compete in all of these spaces, and I hope that the next 10 bear fruit and see the language go from strength to strength.
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