Linus Torvalds, the father of Linux, has been uncharacteristically vocal in the media arena over the past six to eight months. I think this probably has something to do with the vitriolic atmosphere that now surrounds the GPLv3 debate, but I could be wrong. That happens a lot.
Today, I learned he had recently penned a post at LKML.org that basically ripped Sun a new one over their true intentions with open source software.
Yes, they finally released Java under GPLv2, and they should be commended for that. But you should also ask yourself why, and why it took so long. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that other Java implementations started being more and more relevant?
Am I cynical? Yes. Do I expect people to act in their own interests? Hell yes! That’s how things are _supposed_ to happen. I’m not at all berating Sun, what I’m trying to do here is to wake people up who seem to be living in some dream-world where Sun wants to help people.
My my. One would think Jonathan Schwartz would have something to say about this… And he does! In a blog entry up today, the Sun Microsystems CEO responds directly to Torvalds in a post entitled “An OpenSolaris/Linux Mashup.”
First, I’m glad you give credit to Sun for the contributions we’ve made to the open source world, and Linux specifically – we take the commitment seriously. It’s why we freed OpenOffice, elements of Gnome, Mozilla, delivered Java, and a long list of other contributions that show up in almost every distro. Individuals will always define communities, but Sun as a company has done its part to grow the market – for others as much as ourselves.
But I disagree with a few of your points. Did the Linux community hurt Sun? No, not a bit. It was the companies that leveraged their work. I draw a very sharp distinction – even if our competition is conveniently reckless. They like to paint the battle as Sun vs. the community, and it’s not. Companies compete, communities simply fracture.
And so on and so on, and around we go. Schwartz implies he “loves’ the direction the GPL is headed. IN the past, Torvalds was cold to it, then warm, and then warmer still just last week when he said, “I don’t think the GPLv3 is as good a license as v2, but on the other hand, I’m pragmatic, and if we can avoid having two kernels with two different licenses and the friction that causes, I at least see the _reason_ for GPLv3. As it is, I don’t really see a reason at all.”
Yes folks, that’s what’s passing as “Linux warms to GPLv3” in the media today.
So, could Sun be open sourcing things like Java faster than they have? I’m sure many people out there think they could. But Schwartz has his reasons:
Why does open sourcing take so long? Because we’re starting from products that exist, in which a diversity of contributors and licensors/licensees have rights we have to negotiate. Indulge me when I say It’s different than starting from scratch. I would love to go faster, and we are all doing everything under our control to accelerate progress. (Remember, we can’t even pick GPL3 yet – it doesn’t officially exist.) It’s also a delicate dance to manage this transition while growing a corporation.
Schwartz concludes with a paragraph that asks Torvalds to lay down his sword and a promise to not engage in any patent nonesense. Whether the call is heard from Linus’ Linux Tower remains to be seen. As far as Schwartz is concerned, it seems, the ball is in Torvalds’ court.