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Apache quits Java group, picks up Wave

In a controversial move, the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) has resigned its seat on the Java SE/EE Executive Committee, the group responsible for standards surrounding the Java programming language and ratifying that Java releases—such as Java Standard Edition 7—meet specifications. The ASF supports a wide variety of open source projects; the organization’s resignation is protest over long-standing governance issues within the Java Community Process, particularly that ASF cannot certify that its open source Java implementation (Harmony) complies with Java language standards because Oracle won’t release the required test suites under an appropriate open license.

“The Apache Software Foundation concludes that that JCP is not an open specification process—that Java specifications are proprietary technology that must be licensed directly from the spec lead under whatever terms the spec lead chooses.” the ASF wrote on its blog. “The recent Java SE 7 vote was the last chance for the JCP EC to demonstrate that the EC has any intent to defend the JCP as an open specification process.”

The dispute over the test suites dates all the way back to 2006, when Java creator Sun Microsystems—whose acquisition by Oracle was finalized at the beginning of the year—refused to grant a license to the Technology Compatibility Kit (TCK) on terms compatible with the Apache license. The TCK is one of three components required to certify a Java implementation; Sun’s license allows the TCK to be used in any GPL Java implementations that derive substantially from Sun’s OpenJDK, but not from any other independent sources.

The ASF’s resignation casts doubt over the future of Harmony as well as Java-based open source projects supported by the Apache Software Foundation. The ASF has been a member of the Executive Committee for 10 years, and had recently tried to persuade other EC members to block the ratification of Java Standard Edition 7 as a protest over TCK licensing. In the past, EC members have opted to set aside disputes over the TCK licensing to focus on advancing the platform; while the ASF did garner some support, it was not enough to black ratification of Java SE 7.

In other news, the Apache Software Foundation will serve as an incubator for Google’s now-abandoned Wave product. Google Wave was supposed to revolutionize email, instant messaging, and document collaboration, but failed to find traction with everyday computer users, who were mostly befuddled that Wave seemed to just do things they could already do…just not as well. Nonetheless, some folks who live and breath by online collaborative processes found a lot to like in Wave, and Google has announced that Wave will continue as the open source Apache Wave as part of Apache’s incubator program. Significant code contributors outside Google have already signed on to the project with an eye towards advancing the Wave in a Box product and the Wave Federation protocols.