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Eclipse IDE Working Group Established to Ensure Continued Sustainability

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17 years after the initial release of the Eclipse IDE, the Eclipse IDE Working Group (WG) was established to ensure its "continued sustainability, integrity, evolution and adoption." According to its charter, the working group establishes and drives funding, oversees the release plan, coordinates the simultaneous releases, helps to grow and evolve the ecosystem and Eclipse Marketplace, and provides governance for related open source projects.

The working group also "promotes the 'Eclipse IDE' brand and its value in the marketplace, provides vendor-neutral marketing", and "leverages Eclipse Foundation licensing and intellectual property flows."

Founding organizations of the Eclipse IDE WG include Bosch, EclipseSource, IBM, Kichwa Coders, Renesas, SAP, VMware, and Yatta Solutions.

Akiya Fukui, vice president, Software Development Division, IoT and Infrastructure Business Unit at Renesas Electronics Corporation, discussing the importance of this new working group, stated:

Renesas are keen to invest in the Eclipse IDE working group to ensure the platform stays relevant and maintainable into the future.

Manuel Bork, COO at Yatta, stated:

We believe the IDE needs to be more relevant and attractive for end users, committers, tool developers, and those who build applications upon it.

The Java community may be wondering why the Eclipse Foundation is requiring the creation of an Eclipse IDE working group after 17 years of operating independently. Over the past few years, a number of Eclipse Foundation working groups have been established. The Jakarta EE, OSGi, and Adoptium working groups were created shortly after joining the Eclipse Foundation. However, the MicroProfile WG, having joined the Eclipse Foundation in December 2016, was completed in October 2020.

Roberto Cortez, SmallRye project lead at Red Hat, provided a retrospective on the previous work by the MicroProfile community, writing:

In these last 4+ years, the MicroProfile community has grown beyond the most optimistic expectations. We believe that the core values that have been part of MicroProfile since its very beginning, like a lightweight process, vendor-neutrality, transparency, accountability, innovation, and implementation first, are the keys to the project's success.

When asked about the benefits of MicroProfile creating a working group after four years of working independently, John Clingan, senior principal product manager at Red Hat, told InfoQ:

The primary driver behind creating the MicroProfile Working Group is to close intellectual property gaps identified by the Eclipse Foundation for specification projects. So, there are more legal protections in place now that MicroProfile is a Working Group.

A working group also places more processes on MicroProfile. Historically, MicroProfile moved quickly with minimal process and late-binding decisions. It was quite an agile project that delivered specifications at quite a quick pace.

According to the June 1, 2021 meeting minutes, the Eclipse IDE WG planned to both provide a "clear statement on the motivation of why the working group is important" and to answer the questions of "Why now?" and "The IDE project has been there for so long, so what is different?"

While the Eclipse newsletter didn't explicitly answer these questions, the message was clear:

[ The working group ] will provide governance support, guidance, and funding to the communities that deliver and maintain the Eclipse IDE software components. They will also oversee the related planning, delivery processes, and delivery technologies for the software suite.

The future of the Eclipse IDE family of projects will be based on a strong, shared vision. This vision will go a long way towards ensuring the software remains relevant, sustainable, and high quality as it evolves.

A review of the Eclipse IDE Simultaneous Release schedule highlights the need for continued sustainability due to declined activity of new features from the about 70 sub-projects. The chart below groups the sub-projects by their last release date:

Sub-Project Releases in Eclipse IDE

Comparing the current release 2021-06 with last year's 2020-06 highlights the decline: The overall number of sub-projects shrank by 7%, the sub-projects with a release decreased from 63% to 47%, and the sub-projects with a release one year or older nearly tripled from 8% to 22%. One project cited the work of creating up to 16 releases a year (each release having three milestone builds) and handling "continuous changes in the Eclipse build infrastructure" as reasons for leaving the Simultaneous Release.

It is unknown to which degree the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to this decline. The last three months of the 2020-06 release development also happened during the pandemic.

The Eclipse IDE New & Noteworthy release notes demonstrate the need to better "coordinate the simultaneous releases." Unlike other IDEs, the Eclipse IDE release notes have no summaries and only present links to sub-project issue lists of varying styles and formats. They also seem inconsistent because they typically cover less than half of all new sub-project releases, but do include unchanged projects and overstate the number of sub-projects by 2-3 for the last four Simultaneous Releases. The chart below groups sub-project releases by how the release notes cover them:

Eclipse IDE Release Note Accuracy

When comparing the 2021-06 and 2020-06 Eclipse IDE releases again, the included sub-projects without a new release doubled from 12% to 24%, while both included new projects and the missing new projects remained stable at 44% and 56%, respectively.

The 2021 Developer Survey from Stack Overflow shows why "the IDE needs to be more relevant and attractive for end users": 69% of 12,955 respondents dislike using the Eclipse IDE; only NetBeans scored worse. In contrast, 68% of 23,467 developers prefer IntelliJ, and 79% of 58,026 developers prefer Visual Studio Code.

The working group has met every two weeks since April 20, 2021. At the time of writing, the last meeting was held on July 13, 2021. The Eclipse IDE WG meeting minutes may be found on this mailing list.

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