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Can't We All Get Along?

Can't We All Get Along?

While browsing through a book on Web services (XML and Web Services Unleashed by Ron Schmelzer), some things jumped out at me. First, it's really scary how many options we have in Java. A few months ago Alan Williamson asked, "Haven't We Got Enough to Remember As It Is?" (JDJ, Vol. 8, issue 12), and he's dead on - and it gets worse all the time. As the JCP matures and picks up speed, it's easy to be overwhelmed by new paradigms, new configuration choices, new APIs, new acronyms, and new reference implementations - each with their attendant choices of underlying utilities.

For instance, picking up the JSR 168 RI means getting used to Castor, which, of course, is in the same space as Jakarta's commons-digester, which is in the same space as JAXB...and before I forget, it also means learning the portlet API and the mindset that goes with it. It's vastly interesting, and maddening. There are now so many "approved" ways of delivering dynamic content over the Web that it's impossible to make a choice without in-depth analysis of every problem, which lessens the usefulness of the general abstraction.

Second, the names of the suppliers of the APIs stand out. In addition to Sun, of course, you have IBM, Jakarta, then MetaStuff Ltd. (with DOM4J), Oracle, BEA, Caucho...the list goes on forever, it seems. All of these groups have a vested interest in the success of Java as a whole. All of them have code in common use, or have influence on the specifications in (hopefully) beneficial ways. This speaks volumes about a strength of Java - how flexible it is - but also highlights a huge problem.

As many of you are aware, Sun and IBM have a somewhat adversarial relationship with respect to GUI technologies. Sun, as the primary controlling body for Java, advocates their API (Swing) as being what's right for Java. IBM, with an alternate platform (Eclipse), suggests that SWT is better for clients. There's arguable evidence for both, honestly, but the troubling aspect is the competition.

I'm a very competitive guy. One of the hardest things for me is restraining my expression in appropriate ways when my sons happen to see me lose Yet I don't want them to think that a loss is a reason for a tantrum. That said, when I'm competing, I don't play stupid games with my opponent; if I win or if I lose, it's because my play had merit or my opponent simply outmaneuvered me, respectively.

The business relationships in Java don't seem to look at things that way. You don't find anyone being less dominant in the industry who simply shrugs and says, "Well, next time we'll win." Instead, we have litigation (e.g., SCO and Linux), acrimony, and outright dislike (e.g., the feeling surrounding the various RSS versions). You have programmers drawing lines in the sand, shouting about ethics and "rightness," as if choosing a platform-native API is a moral decision.

Hey, IBM, Sun, JBoss, BEA, Oracle - it's not. It's a business decision, sometimes swayed by personal preference. It's depressing how many names I could address this to - and how many would still be left out if I committed the space to it.

It's time to drop the acrimony and function as a family whose members compete with each other. We're up against a monopoly that doesn't have the burden and benefit of all of this infighting. If we're up in arms with each other, there's no way we'll ever be able to educate our users enough so they'll really use the power of Java as we know it can be used.

It's time to get along. We can compete forever for mindshare without the internal bickering, and we should - it's good for Java. Tearing each other apart, though, is not.

More Stories By Joseph Ottinger

I am a software evangelist for GigaSpaces technologies, as well as a writer and musician. I've been the editor-in-chief of Java Developer's Journal and TheServerSide.

GigaSpaces Technologies is a leading provider of a new generation of application platforms for Java and .Net environments that offer an alternative to traditional application-servers. The company's eXtreme Application Platform (XAP) is a high-end application server, designed to meet the most demanding business requirements in a cost-effective manner. It is the only product that provides a complete middleware solution on a single, scalable platform. XAP is trusted by Fortune 100 companies, which leverage it as a strategic solution that enhances efficiency and agility across the IT organization.

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