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JCP Embraces Open-Source Licensing

Sun Microsystems-led Java Community Process Tuesday launched the latest iteration of its program, JCP 2.5, making it easier for Java-loving developers to write to the language with its focus on open-source licensing.

JCP 2.5, the first program refresh in two years, promises the participation of more contributors to help tweak and hash out new Java programming language specifications.

The revised Java Specification Participation Agreement (JSPA) requires all Java specs to allow for development and distribution of compatible independent implementations, make specification products available separately and offer Technology Compatibility Kits (TCK) free of charge for qualified non-profits, academic groups and individuals. The JCP 2.5 process document focuses on the new agreement and on the availability of Java APIs as part of, or independent of, platform specifications.

JCP Chairman Rob Gingell said the new governing rules give more freedom and equal standing to Java community participants, which will ultimately allow them to put compatible Java specifications to use under a license of their own choosing -- including open source licenses.

Jason Hunter, vice-president of the Apache Software Foundation and an JCP EC member, applauded the JCP changes.

"JCP 2.5 breaks new ground by making open source licensing possible for those who work on Java specifications and those who create compatible independent implementations of the specifications," Hunter said.

Hunter said the cost structure, which makes some access free, has been changed to allow smaller developer groups and individual developers to gain broader access to Java specifications.

Gartner Group Research Director Mark Driver told internetnews.com the new rules make way for a more level playing field for participants -- not just where Sun is concerned, but for those who lead the specs.

"Before 2.5, whoever was the spec lead could bundle their compatibility test kit with the spec implementation to force you to use their IP," Driver explained. "2.5 also makes it possible for developers to legally open-source Java for the first time.

Driver said Sun is still in the role of benevolent dictator, but the new rules make Sun much less the dominant player here than it used to be.

"Sun still has veto power," Driver said.

The revisions also met with the approval of analyst firm Hurwitz Group, which said the changes in JCP 2.5 "contribute directly to the maturity and solidification of the JCP model as a technology advancement platform."

"JCP members and Java end-user community now have the best of both worlds," the Hurwitz report said. "In addition to contributing to, and directly influencing Java technology, they can contribute to and directly influence the parameters of the agreement that governs the ruling body of the community."

JCP members who have signed their approval of the document include Apache, BEA, IONA, Motorola and Nokia.

JCP 1.0 was launched in December 1998 to allow developers all over the world to write Java technologies and agree on specification on how to write them. JCP 2.0 followed in June 2000. The process now features more than 190 Java Specification Requests (JSRs) and more than 650 members.

Similar developer programs exist to write programs for the Internet, but no others feature Java exclusively -- IBM-led Eclipse and rival Microsoft's Microsoft Developer's Network.