From the ‘Good Ideas that Failed’ files:
Remember Apache Harmony? The Apache Software Foundation led effort to build a fully open source implementation of Java?
Guess what? The project is now (mostly) dead and that’s not good news.
In a vote, Apache Harmony developers decided to move Harmony to the Attic, essentially shelving the project that once held the prospect of being the leading light in the open source Java world.
Back in 2005, Apache’s Harmony effort was seen as being essential for open source development. Things have changed since then, Sun open sourced Java, Oracle acquired Sun. And oh yeah both Red Hat and IBM now back the OpenJDK open source implementation of Java effort.
The ascendancy of OpenJDK has probably led some to think about why Apache Harmony might have been necessary. That said, one needs to look no further than Apache Tomcat to see why Apache really could have done something great, that is if IBM and others didn’t abandon Harmony.
Functionally the OpenJDK works and is the home of open source Java, though the Apache Software Foundation itself still has issues with the JCP (which they quit). The failure of Harmony is not a failure of open source necessarily. Java today is open source, which it wasn’t back in 2005 when Harmony got started. Harmony’s failure has to more with OpenJDK’s success.