The Sunset of the DLJ

The actually sunset of the DLJ happened last summer, but it's news because of an article in OMG! Ubuntu! and Simon's followup today in Computerworld UK.

Simon's article does a good job of highlighting the role of the DLJ in the pre-OpenJDK days. Even for many of us at Sun we didn't know at the time we working on the DLJ that the plans to open source Java would be announced at JavaOne 2006. Even so it would be over a year before OpenJDK source was actually released and several more months before it was built and distributed by major Linux distributions.

Especially in the early days the DLJ bundles played an important role in the transition to the Free Java we enjoy today. In particular this enabled meaningful conversations between Sun and the community around packaging which have continued to this day on the subject of Java modularity. Yet there is one thing Simon did not mention: how many people thanked Sun for making Java available under the DLJ.

The people who were most appreciative were those using government mandated applications (e.g. tax filing in France) or financial applications (e.g. banking in Brazil). What is very important to note is that these key applications use Java applets. These applications depend on having a solid Java plugin which provides applets in modern browsers.

What the community lost in the sunset of the DLJ was the de facto plugin implementation even though it is not, in fact, part of the Java SE specification. Since Java 6 update 10 or so the Sun (now Oracle) implementations have used a new, re-architected plugin (let's call it plugin2). One of the large, remaining deltas from Oracle's closed Java and OpenJDK is the plugin: neither plugin1 nor plugin2 have been open sourced.

Here we must acknowledge the amazing community effort of the IcedTea project in Free Java and, specifically, around an open source plugin implementation. So is Java in Ubuntu? Yes. Is there a plugin in Ubuntu? Yes. Yet this is one area where the community is struggling to provide users with Java functionality they need and Oracle isn't cooperating with the community as well as they are on the bulk of OpenJDK.

My former Sun colleague David Herron has blogged about the DLJ as has a fellow Debian Java developer Sylvestre Ledru.

We not at the End Times for Java. I would even go so far as to suggest that we are now in a Java renaissance thanks to the variety of languages and projects running on the JVM. If you would like to experience the vibrance of the community please join us at FOSDEM 2012.

I do hope Oracle will decide to liberate the new plugin (only then will the DLJ R.I.P.).