Is moving NetBeans to Apache good or bad news?

As a keen NetBeans user with no affiliation to Oracle or any vested interest (IDRsolutions – my company – pays my salary and I am free to choose whatever tools I want), I wanted to write an article looking at this and the questions raised.

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Is it good news or bad news?

What is NetBeans?

NetBeans is both an IDE (tool to develop originally Java and now other code such as PHP, JavaScript, HTML, even Android) and a platform (quick way to develop complex applications without having to write lots of code from scratch). It is actively developed and the latest release (8.2) will be released any day. It has 1.5 million active users, including James Gosling, the original creator of Java.

What is Apache?

The Apache Software foundation provides a clear and well-organised umbrella for Open Source projects with a clear governance model. Much of the Internet runs or relies on software from the Apache foundation.

Isn’t NetBeans already Open Source?

Yes. It was open-sourced by Sun and Oracle has continued to be Open-sourced. At the moment, it is very hard for other people outside Oracle to get involved and contribute. The Apache project provides a much better basis for developing NetBeans further and making it easy to get involved. Some people might also argue that too close a connection to Oracle is holding back NetBeans.

Does this mean Oracle is abandoning NetBeans?

NetBeans is clearly a critical project inside Oracle. You only have to look at the list of Oracle staff being committed to carrying on with NetBeans which includes a huge list of Oracle developers from multiple business units. Oracle is paying their salaries and wants them involved. What is exciting is the number of additional non-Oracle people now able to be involved.

If Oracle were ever to abandon NetBeans at some point, it gives NetBeans a much more viable future.

On the contrary, I see it as a sign that Oracle regards the success of NetBeans as critical and it is trying to give it a broader community and a greater chance of success.

A key indicator is whether the key NetBeans individuals at Oracle are all now quietly looking for jobs elsewhere or in favour of it. I can tell you they are very excited in both public and private conversations off the record…

Is there a down side?

There will be some considerable adjustment and it will take time to move across to the Apache project.

There was some speculation as to whether it made it easier for Oracle to abandon NetBeans. Oracle has never been afraid to kill off projects if it wanted to, and at the end of the day, it gives NetBeans a much wider framework. So I would say no.

Is this good new for NetBeans and its users?

YES!

But what do you think about the move?

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Mark Stephens

System Architect and Lead Developer at IDRSolutions
Mark Stephens has been working with Java and PDF since 1999 and has diversified into HTML5, SVG and JavaFX. He also enjoys speaking at conferences and has been a Speaker at user groups, Business of Software, Seybold and JavaOne conferences. He has a very dry sense of humor and an MA in Medieval History for which he has not yet found a practical use.
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About Mark Stephens

Mark Stephens has been working with Java and PDF since 1999 and has diversified into HTML5, SVG and JavaFX. He also enjoys speaking at conferences and has been a Speaker at user groups, Business of Software, Seybold and JavaOne conferences. He has a very dry sense of humor and an MA in Medieval History for which he has not yet found a practical use.

3 thoughts on “Is moving NetBeans to Apache good or bad news?

  1. Hans

    I am a bit more sceptical about this. The same was said when Oracle handed OpenOffice over to Apache – and this more or less killed the OpenOffice Project (LibreOffice is much more active)

    Btw: your SSL certificate has expired and Firefox will refuse to display this page

    • I am no Oracle fan either but there is a critical difference here (Oracle is packing lots of resources into it and all the NetBeans team in Oracle are very much in favour of it). I think we should hold them to account but give them a chance.

      BTW: SSL should now be sorted. We had some issues over weekend and now fixed. Sorry for the inconvenience.

  2. Graeme Dunlop

    If memory serves, OpenOffice had already been forked to LibreOffice before Oracle “donated” it to the Apache foundation — and most of the key developers had left to follow LibreOffice. That’s certainly not the case with NetBeans. Hans, whilst I share your scepticism about Oracle’s treatment of its software properties, I think this is quite a different situation. I certainly hope so, anyway. I would hate to see NetBeans die off. It’s been my favourite IDE since around release 5.

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