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JCP 2.6 Looking for More Input

Sun Microsystems officials rolled out Java Community Process (JCP) 2.6 Tuesday, along with a goal of more community participation in order to improve Java specifications.

Although JCP 2.6 enhancements have been in the works for the past year, the timing of the release comes amid IBM's recent push for an open source implementation of Java.

Improvements in transparency, participation and efficiency are the three major goals in the JCP's Java specification process to create new standards, Aaron Williams, JCP executive relations manager, told internetnews.com.

"We're encouraging participation and opening the community to more participation," he said.

To date, much of the early Java Specification Request (JSR) work has been closed to the public. To bring more "openess" to the work of a new Java specification, however, JCP officials will combine the two review periods -- for community members and later the public -- into one early review draft open to public comments. The JCP will also give specification leaders the tools to create a community Web page so they can keep the public updated on the specifications progress.

"This goes back to taking some of the black magic out of being a spec lead," Williams said. "We want to make it clear what a spec lead is and want to provide them with all the tools they need to be successful."

To encourage more participation in the JCP, officials are also looking for more individual programmers to join the JCP and work their way through the ranks, from community member to expert group member to membership in the organization's two executive committees.

Williams said individuals now make up one-half of the JCP membership roster, up from roughly a third two years ago. Its executive committees, once composed of corporate members, now have two individual members and a non-profit organization (the Apache Project) making decisions that affect the future growth of the Java programming language.

This is Sun's first major revision to the JCP since October 2002, when it released JCP 2.5. That revision was hailed for embracing a more participatory membership, which JCP 2.6 solidifies, and for allowing for open source licensing of specific implementations of Java that fall under a particular specification.

IBM has been urging an open source implementation of the entire Java programming language, not just specification-specific implementations. In an open letter to Sun, Rod Smith, IBM executive vice president of emerging technologies, asked for help to bring an open source version of Java to the world.

Java's code, while not proprietary in the sense of Microsoft's .NET, is still subject to the scrutiny of the JCP, which officials maintain is needed to ensure the entire language is compatible.

"IBM would like to work with Sun on an independent project to open source Java," the letter stated. "Sun's strong commitment to open source Java would speed the development of a first class and compatible open source Java implementation to the benefit of our customers and the industry. IBM is ready to provide technical resources and code for the open source Java implementation while Sun provides the open source community with Sun materials, including Java specifications, tests and code. We are firmly convinced the open source community would rally around this effort and make substantial contributions as well."