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Oracle Issues Draft OpenJDK Bylaws

by Charles Humble on Feb 04, 2011 |

Oracle has issued a first draft set of the bylaws that it hopes will guide the processes of the OpenJDK. These governance issues were originally supposed to have been solved by the OpenJDK interim governance board, which Sun created in May 2007, but despite an extension the board was unable to complete the work. Mark Reinhold, chief architect of the Java 7 Platform who served as editor for the document, has stated that the new document:

draws upon the earlier work of the Sun-chartered OpenJDK Interim Governance Board and has exactly the same goal: To be a written set of rules that will foster the long-term health and growth of the OpenJDK Community by enabling and encouraging its members to act in an open, transparent, and meritocratic manner.

"This is a starting point, not a done deal. There are numerous bugs and missed corner cases in this draft and, no doubt, even more numerous ways in which it can be improved," Reinhold suggests. He will accept and consider comments until March 3, after which he will submit it to OpenJDK Community members for ratification.

Some criticism has already appeared noting the work's heavy reliance on Oracle and IBM personnel. Former member of the interim governance board and Chief Open Source Officer at Sun Microsystems, Simon Phipps, scored the proposal -3 on a scale form -10 to 10, citing a number of issues but particularly the way the governing board is put together. The board comprises Mark Reinhold and Adam Messinger (both Oracle), Jason Gartner (IBM), and two independents - Doug Lea best known for his work on Java concurrency, and Mike Milinkovich, the Eclipse Foundation Executive Director. This team wrote the draft bylaws along with John Duimovich, also of IBM. Phipps wrote:

This is initially a closed plutocracy comprising mostly people who have never been involved in OpenJDK, as long-term Free Java leader Mark Wielaard has pointed out. The initial Board is all appointed by Oracle and IBM and they have picked only people they can trust to represent them and taken few risks (only Doug Lea has spoken out in the past, when he resigned from the JCP) and omitted key OpenJDK contributors Red Hat and Google (and recent joiner Apple). Future Boards will always comprise at least two Oracle staff and one IBM member. Interestingly, this is not conformant with the original OpenJDK Charter, which gave a majority of seats to elected representatives.

There is scope for the Board to be grown in the future and it’s theoretically possible eventually for the Board to have community-appointed members outnumbering the Oracle-IBM axis, but the rules are poorly defined and there’s undoubtedly scope for them to be gamed in order to maintain control.

The aforementioned Wielaard has also expressed concern about the licensing conflict between work done through the JCP and OpenJDK:

As you know the current platform JSRs have licenses for the spec, ri and tck published by the JCP under terms that are in conflict with the GPL. It would be wise to resolve this before it gets people in trouble

Milinkovich, however, defended the work, noting that the draft "largely succeeded" in setting up an impartial governing structure.

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Get involved! by Martijn Verburg

Hi all,

There were some great discussions in person with Mark, Simon et al over the weekend at FOSDEM. This is a great time for the community to engage with the likes of Oracle and IBM and so please do consider joining the discussion, details on the mailing list are at mail.openjdk.java.net/mailman/listinfo/gb-discuss

Cheers,
Martijn - FOSS developer and London JUG co-organiser

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