October 20, 2003

Why JCP was forced to change its act

Active membership in the Java Community Process (JCP) can be extremely valuable for an IT company, in terms of directly helping to advance the Java standard and for bringing international attention, respect, and prestige to the company itself. But, as is inevitable in large organizations, politics has caused an unseemly stench in the JCP, and things have changed big time in the community the last few years.f Denver, Colo., have other viewpoints. Spielman says there have been so many Java Specification Requests (JSRs) proposed that they have "exploded the Java API. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it certainly is a challenge to the Java developer who tries to stay up on the happenings in the JCP. This could very well be one of the reasons that in the eyes of the developers, the JCP is bloated and crawling at a snail's pace. It has become impossible for anyone to keep up on all of the JSRs that are currently in proposal and various review stages."

All these issues hinged on one main factor: The JCP itself was getting too big for its britches. It was successful in terms of attracting members, but that was a mainstay of the problem. Membership was closing in on 1,000 companies and individuals, and that's a lot of self-interest to hear, process, and coordinate. Hello, politics.

JCP program manager responds

We needed an update. Last week I caught up with Onno Kluyt, the JCP program manager and a full-time Sun Microsystems employee, who is keenly aware of all these issues.

"We certainly recognize all the concerns that members of JCP and members of the development community at large have had," Kluyt said. "While I believe the JCP has always made room for the individual developer to have his or her say, you can understand that larger companies are probably going to make more noise in standards-making groups like JCP. That's the nature of all business."

Kluyt and other JCP leaders have been busy trying to institute peace among the discordant factions within the JCP, which will vote on some new bylaws early next year for the upcoming JCP 2.6. "I really feel that JCP 2.6 strikes a good balance for all parties," he said.

The key new proposal for the new bylaws is that the first "community review" of a JSR should be changed to a "public review," allowing for much larger amount of feedback from both members and non-members. "Anybody with an Internet connection can now use this 'safe review' go into the spec and make comment and offer suggestions on it at an early time in development," Kluyt said.

This takes some of the pressure off the originators of the JSP, Kluyt said, because more evaluations early in the process will save a lot of grief and backtracking later on. It also makes the JSP process a lot more transparent to all, he added. "Spec leads who are fearful of a committee review voting a particular JSP down late in the process will have less to worry about," Kluyt said.

The so-called "safe review," because it seeks the input of all those interested, could actually work wonders for the community by bringing in more input into the evaluation process without requiring full membership.

A list of the key changes

Here are the key items that will be included in JCP 2.6, which is now in public review and will be voted on in early 2004:

  • Draft reviews will now be public

The public will be able to monitor the status of a particular JSR more closely

The public will be able to see on what the expert group is currently working, including design decisions that have been made.

Spec leads will be asked to be more responsive to individual questions and requests.

Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) 1.5, expected out in early 2005, may be one of the first large APIs to use the new JCP.

Editor's note:Nominations (self-nominations are welcome) for positions on the JCP board opened on Oct. 17 and close Oct. 31. Information on on how to become a JCP member is available online. There is no cost to join as an individual or as an existing Java licensee; the fee is $5,000 per commercial company and $2,000 per educational or non-profit institution to be represented.

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