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Culture

A plea for community

It would be nice if vendors could come together on open-source projects to create common industry platforms. But nice isn't how the industry operates.

Sifting through the news from JavaOne this week, I can't help but wonder when we'll stop developing our personal silos and truly get into community. Sun is a wonderful company, but I'm with Zonker on this one: Do we really need another operating system, application server, RIA platform, etc.

This isn't just a Sun platform. IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, etc. are all guilty of the same eighth deadly sin of overdevelopment and reinvention of the wheel.

Adobe has AIR. Microsoft has Silverlight. Now Sun has JavaFX. Each does basically the same thing: Make development and deployment of Rich Internet Applications easier. If asked why they don't simply collaborate on a core platform, each will likely talk about the infinite advantages of their own platform.

Maybe they're right. But I doubt it.

For the customer, there is value in cohesion and community, not dissonance and petty competition. Vendors are so determined to control their technology that they forget the customer.

Yes, it may well be too early to take sides and settle on a particular technology to rally around. But the alternative is wasted decades, as we've had in operating systems. Linux has finally emerged as a true community platform, but only the world grew so fed up with Windows' dominance that the vendors gave up fighting over their corners of the sandbox and decided to collaborate.

Does it have to be this hard?

Eclipse, Apache, and Mozilla would suggest that it's not. Each has demonstrated a relatively speedy ability to mobilize competing corporate interests around a common platform. Why? Because non-profits and/or neutrals sit at the heart of these projects. Even MySQL, corporate at its core, has long felt more like a community project than a company project, enabling it to assume a central role in the open-source stack..

On the other side, various open-source projects have failed to become community property because they are too tied to a particular profit-seeking company. Java comes to mind, but hopefully will be better now.

It would be great to see true communities form around things like JBoss, PHP, etc. But it may be too late, and the proprietary alternatives may be too rabidly devoted to winning at the expense of others rather than in addition to others.

Anyway, my Utopian thought for the evening.