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OpenJDK Governance Board's Life is Extended Despite Lack of Delivery

by Charles Humble on May 13, 2009 |

Sun Microsystems' probable acquisition by Oracle, the fact that there is still not a JSR for Java 7, and the lack of a Constitution for the OpenJDK project, is becoming a matter of concern amongst some in the Java community. However, on the 8th May 2009, Mark Reinhold, Chief Engineer for Java SE at Sun, announced that Sun has extended the life of the Interim OpenJDK Governance Board for a further twelve months and that it will be turning its attention back to governance issues.

The Governance Board was created a little over two years ago, on the 8th May 2007. Its stated primary purpose was to create a Constitution for the OpenJDK Community and have it ratified by an appropriate democratic process involving members of the community in time for JavaONE in June 2008. The board held a number of meetings during its first year and the majority of the minutes from these meetings are available for review on the Governance Board pages of the OpenJDK website.

As that first deadline approached, having failed to deliver the charter, the board asked Sun Microsystems for a twelve month extension, at the same time requesting that the number of board members be increased from five to seven. Both requests were formally granted and at the same time the board switched its focus from formalising governance to building up the JDK community. The minutes from the meeting held on the 10th April 2008 state:

"Mark [Reinhold] pointed out that ... due to changes in Sun’s priorities over the past year the work on the Constitution is running behind the schedule and won’t be finished by JavaOne, as originally planned. In conversations over the past few months with Dalibor, Simon, and others, Mark had concluded that building the Community and the infrastructure for collaboration was much more important than formalizing governance, and prioritized his work accordingly." 

Reinhold provided some additional commentary on his blog revealing that the constitution did not exist, even in draft form. It still doesn't. Since the 10th April 2008 meeting neither of the two additional board positions have been filled and Reinhold confirmed to InfoQ that the board has not met again. In January 2009 Neal Gafter asked about the status of the drafting of the constitution and finding new members. In response Simon Phipps, Chief Open-Source Officer of Sun Microsystems, suggested that the constitution may be unnecessary:

"I'm not 100% happy that there have been no meetings, but I do feel that the overall goal we agreed - to make sure that any kind of committee would stay out of the way of the actual work, and that we'd wait until it was clear what the need was until acting - still seems the right one and seems to have been achieved by default. It may well be smart to keep going like this rather than create some document for the sake of having it."

Perhaps galvanised by the Oracle acquisition, there are now signs that the Governance Board may be becoming active once more. Reinhold told InfoQ that the Governance Board aims to deliver the new constitution before the next one-year extension runs out, and that the two remaining seats will be filled within four weeks.

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