Sun Opens Java Source Code Under GPL

Hoping to increase usage of the programming language, Sun said Monday that it would be using the GNU General Public License (GPL) to open source the Java platform. Beginning today, source code would be available for both the Standard (Java SE) and Micro (Java ME) editions.

Additionally, the GPL would be added to the Enterprise edition (Java EE), which had already been made available by Sun through the Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL) for over a year. The moves will make Java easier to bundle with Linux, say Sun executives.

The source code release represents one of the largest contributions of code to the GPL, according to Sun. While 3.8 billion Java devices already exists, the Santa Clara, Calif. based company hopes that open-sourcing Java would make the platform even more pervasive.

"Everyone has been expecting that one day Sun would open source Java technology, but no one expected just how far they'd go -- GPL," Java supporter and founder and CEO of O'Reilly Media Tim O'Reilly said. "A bold move, and a great opportunity both for Sun and for free and open source software."

Not all Java code would be made widely available, however. For portions of the source code, Sun would invoke the "classpath exception" clause of the GPL, allowing it to limit what the license covers. A commercial license would still be made available for standards certification and legal protections.

Analysts applauded the move, which had long been asked for by many in the industry. "GPL is the Gold Standard in Open Source licenses," Illuminata analyst Jonathan Eunice said.

"Choosing it simplifies so many things, while at the same time putting a reasonable, community-based dampening effect on incompatible diversions, and allowing Sun’s existing commercial license scheme to continue as well," he continued.

More information can be found on Sun's new Open JDK site.

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