After 6 years of stewardship, this week it was announced that Oracle is proposing to bid farewell to NetBeans and donate it to the Apache Software Foundation.
Wow – Netbeans is applying to become an Apache project! This is great news! …um, I think….https://t.co/dOruRCYrpW
— Simon Maple (@sjmaple) September 13, 2016
What is going on?
NetBeans started as a student project in the Czech Republic in 1996. It was the first Java IDE written in Java. It has a long history of being open source, with decisions made in public and participation open to anyone. To date NetBeans IDE has over 18 million downloads and some high-profile users including NATO.
NetBeans is undoubtably one of the big 3 IDEs, but could it be that NetBeans isn’t profitable enough for Oracle? Since Oracle acquired Sun in 2010, there has been a shift from the community-focused inherited software like Hudson to the big money-makers such as the acquisition of NetSuite.
Another reason could be that the proposal is actually an act of love. Oracle could be letting the metaphorical child leave home rather than slowly winding down development on it. The proposal suggests that moving NetBeans to a neutral place, like Apache, will help to generate more contributions from other organisations. The hope is that existing Oracle contributors will continue, and new contributors will join.
Johan Vos, the CTO of Cloud Products at Gluon, is a core contributor to NetBeans and uses NetBeans in Gluon:
“At Gluon our core offerings – Gluon Mobile and Gluon CloudLink – have long held the philosophy that we must meet developers where they work. Our NetBeans plugin has been hugely popular and a major business driver for Gluon. We wish NetBeans continued success, and we look forward to dedicating our engineers to work on the continued innovation and advancement of NetBeans, especially for Java, JavaFX, and Java on Mobile.”
Simon Maple, Developer Advocate for ZeroTurnaround, thinks this is a great thing for NetBeans:
“The ability for the wider community to contribute to a project with as fewer barriers as possible is a great thing. This is what the NetBeans move to become an Apache project will provide. I do wonder about Oracle’s reasoning behind this move, as their recent behaviour, with Glassfish for example, hasn’t been favourable to the community. In fact, if it’s not in the best interest of Oracle’s business plan, they tend not pursue it, which isn’t ideal when it comes to stewardship of a technology. If Oracle does continue to support the project at a similar scale as it does today, then this is a step in the right direction.”
“In the recent RebelLabs survey report, we saw a steady 10% of people (as shown below) use NetBeans, and I think it’s widely considered an IDE that is quite far behind IntelliJ IDEA and Eclipse in terms of popularity and adoption. I think if done correctly, this NetBeans move might even start to attract some of the Eclipse users, as their IDE adoption have declined over the years.”
Another prominent figure to come out in favour of the NetBeans move is Simon Phipps of Meshed Insights. In his post, he suggests that moving to Apache is a great choice due to their extreme transparency. This should build confidence in non-Oracle committers and give NetBeans a second life.
The future of NetBeans
There is a lot of interest in NetBeans from companies (like Gluon) and developers. Hopefully moving to Apache wont slow down the momentum of development. It is a highly popular IDE, and will benefit Apache who don’t have a big IDE to their name.
It is a graceful solution for Oracle. They may not want to continue spending time on a product that doesn’t directly generate revenue. Hopefully it will benefit NetBeans and successfully take the much-loved IDE into the future.