Poor Java saw so much turmoil recently. Yet, its woes aren't over. The latest blow came from the Apache Software Foundation (ASF). It was triggered by the decision of Oracle (news, site), the present owner of Java, to introduce additional terms and conditions for licensing Java applications for compatibility.
The problem stems from the fact that the proposed new changes are not compatible with open source licenses and this can cause a lot of problems for many truly open source companies. The ASF itself will be unable to certify Harmony (its open source Java runtime implementation).
In response to Oracle's initiative to make licensing changes which practically open the door to Java becoming a hybrid between an open source programming language and a proprietary one, ASF declared that it will vote against Java 7 (the next major version of Java) in the Java Community Process (JCP) Executive Committee.
Additionally, ASF is asking other Java companies to follow them and give Oracle a lesson that rules are to be followed. If you want to learn more about the process of Java licensing, the role of JCP and other similar issues, check this FAQ from ASF to get a better understanding of what the fight is about.
The Battle for Open Source Java
ASF isn't alone in its battle. The Java development community as a whole backs the ASF and opposes any changes that will make Java a proprietary programming language. This is quite logical because Java became so popular mainly because it was free.
The worries of open source supporters about the fate of Java aren't groundless, having in mind the history of other emblematic technologies Oracle had purchased. The most recent example is Open Office. Before that, OpenSolaris fell dead. Many developers are still worried about the plans of Oracle for MySQL and Java. MySQL prices already skyrocketed, so is Java to follow?
For good or bad, emblematic open source technologies fell into the hands of Oracle and the global open source community can't watch impartially when these technologies are slowly destroyed from the inside.
When Oracle bought Sun and its pearl Java, the community were optimistic about the future (anyway, the buyer wasn't Microsoft, right?). However, now many people are asking the question if Java won't be ruined by its new owner. If this happens, it will be the end of the world for all these millions of dedicated Java fans.
Is Everybody Against Oracle?
The open source community in general might be worried about the fate of Java as an open source language, but it is not true to say that nobody supports Oracle. Two of the most prominent supporters -- who think that since Oracle is the owner of Java, they can do with it what they deem appropriate rather than discontinue the language at once -- are Red Hat and the Eclipse Foundation.
There are also other, smaller players who also side with Oracle and when the voting for or against Java 7 takes place, they will show their true colors. For now, let's hope that Oracle and the ASF will find a way to iron out their differences.