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InfoQ Homepage News Oracle Gives NetBeans to the Apache Foundation

Oracle Gives NetBeans to the Apache Foundation

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The NetBeans Community blog has announced that Oracle is proposing to entrust the development of the NetBeans platform and IDE to the Apache Foundation to “open up the government model,” reaffirming its commitment to the project.

NetBeans is currently submitted as a Proposal to Apache, and it will enter incubation if accepted. The two main problems to be solved are infrastructure and licensing. Regarding infrastructure, over 30 repositories maintained at need to be moved from Mercurial to Git. Mark Struberg, one of the project’s mentors, considers that this could be done easily by using GitHub’s import tool then cloning the resulting Git repository.

The difficult part is the legal one. NetBeans is a large project with lots of dependencies on other projects. The current license is CDDL + GPL v2 with Classpath Exception, and everything needs to be moved to Apache License 2, according to Geertjan Wielenga, Product Manager for NetBeans at Oracle. This process requires to verify the license of every dependency library used by the platform, about 200 of them, determines which are absolutely needed, and if they can be moved to AL2. Some are GPL licenses which Apache does not accept.

While having the strong governance model used by Apache and the independence coming with it is good news for NetBeans, that is not enough to guarantee the success of the project in the future. The initial committer list contains over 60 names, including James Gosling who expressed his support for this move to Apache, but almost half of those are Oracle developers. What happens if Oracle withdraws their support?

Some have expressed concern that NetBeans might share the fate of OpenOffice, another Sun project that Oracle has given to the Apache Foundation but which has known little development, most of the attention being transferred to LibreOffice, a fork of OpenOffice. Commenting on a discussion list, Bertrand Delacretaz, NetBeans Champion and Mentor, said that people should not be “worrying about what Twitter says” and the new governance model will facilitate the contribution of many people,  “lessening the dependency on Oracle.” Only time will tell if the project is taking off or dying.

According to NetBeans, the IDE currently has 1.5 million active developers worldwide, being used both in production by NASA, NATO, Boing, Airbus, among others, and in education by various schools and universities. NetBeans is a cross-platform IDE written in Java and targeting mainly Java, but it supports several other programming languages such as HTML5, PHP and C/C++.

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