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Sun's Joy rapturous over Jxta

In a JavaOne keynote address designed to lure developers into his company's Jxta project, Bill Joy spends the morning preaching the gospel of open-source peer-to-peer.

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  Joy shows Java's practical side
Bill Joy, chief scientist, Sun
SAN FRANCISCO--In a JavaOne keynote address designed to lure developers into Sun Microsystems' Jxta project, company founder Bill Joy spent Wednesday morning preaching the gospel of open-source peer-to-peer.

The company is in evangelistic mode for its new Jxta effort, which aims to create a standard, open-source technology for file-swapping services of the type pioneered by Napster and Gnutella.

Although developers continue to focus on independent peer-to-peer projects, Sun hopes to attract enough of them to create a critical mass around Jxta and combat Microsoft's .Net campaign, the centerpiece of a more proprietary--or closed-source--vision of Net-based applications.

The success of Jxta depends on the next few months, as developers toy with the source code and decide whether it is something they can use for new applications. Sun has already logged 50,000 downloads of the code and says it has seen considerable interest in helping move the Jxta service beyond Java technology.

A service provided by, which keeps track of how many Jxta "peers" are available on the Net, has shown that numbers remain low, however.

In an effort to whip up enthusiasm and win new disciples, the tousle-haired Joy spent much of his time sketching out a new vision of the Internet's evolution, a world where cell phones, handheld devices and ordinary PCs would wield the same power as massive Web servers.

These are changes "both on the social side and in putting software together," Joy told an audience of thousands of developers at the company's JavaOne Developers Conference. Letting anybody develop software, and letting any device talk to any other, would create a much more "participatory" Net, he said.

The Java conference has been a showcase for the progress made in the first six weeks of Jxta's availability. Earlier in the week, Sun said it was making the first Jxta-based application it had developed--a peer-to-peer search function bought along with start-up InfraSearch--an open-source project as well.

The P2P myth Joy also demonstrated one of the first outside applications to be written for the peer-to-peer infrastructure, created by a company called eMikolo. Streaming the trailer for the upcoming "Tomb Raider" movie, he showed that drawing different pieces of the trailer from several different computers that had already downloaded the file was faster than ordinary streaming and created a better picture.

This kind of system, in which downloads or streams come from multiple sources, has already proven a popular model in independent file-swapping services such as Kazaa and MusicCity Networks.

In a panel discussion accompanying Joy's keynote speech, other Sun executives cautioned developers. Much of what the computer community thought it knew about programming over the last few decades, they said, may have to be discarded in this new world of networked cell phones and wirelessly connected PDAs.

"We're going to learn that most of what we thought...was wrong," said Rob Gingell, Sun's chief technology officer, comparing the past decades of computing to the early days of medicine. "We may along the way learn that we've been bleeding with leeches for a while."