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Java founder James Gosling endorses Apache takeover of NetBeans Java IDE

NetBeans, the venerable open source Java IDE that originated at Sun Microsystems, would move from Oracle's jurisdiction to the Apache Software Foundation under a proposal unveiled today. The plan is being endorsed by Java founder James Gosling, a longtime fan of the IDE.

Moving NetBeans to a neutral venue like Apache, with its strong governance model, would help the project attract more contributions from various organizations, according to the proposal posted in the Apache wiki. "Large companies are using NetBeans as an application framework to build internal or commercial applications and are much more likely to contribute to it once it moves to neutral Apache ground," the proposal says.

While Oracle will relinquish its control over NetBeans under the proposal, individual contributors from Oracle are expected to continue contributing to the project. 

The Apache takeover is "a good idea," said Gosling, who has both criticized and praised Oracle's treatment of Java over the years. "It makes it much easier for people outside Oracle to contribute to NetBeans." Gosling noted Oracle's intentions to keep contributing to NetBeans.

Asked if Oracle had neglected NetBeans, Gosling said, "Oracle didn't single out NetBeans for neglect, they neglect everything. Look at the way they've treated EE [Java Enterprise Edition].  I'm thrilled that the NetBeans community will now be able to chart its own course." After much protests from the community that Oracle was neglecting Java EE, the company is readying a proposal to retool it for cloud computing

Oracle put out its own statement on NetBeans.org, noting the IDE would move to Apache Incubator status. "By bringing NetBeans to the Apache family, Oracle is opening up the NetBeans governance model to give NetBeans constituents a greater voice in the project's direction and future success through the upcoming release of Java 9 and NetBeans 9 and beyond," Oracle said.

Following its move to incubation status, NetBeans would become an Apache Top-Level project, if accepted by Apache.

The IDE has about 1.5 million active users, Oracle said. It has vied with other IDEs, including the Eclipse IDE and JetBrains IntelliJ IDEA. But Oracle's stewardship over the project, which began with the company's acquisition of Sun Microsystems in early 2010, was always an odd fit. Oracle already had its own Java IDE, JDeveloper. Previously. Oracle moved the OpenOffice office productivity toolset, which it also inherited from Sun, over to Apache.

Apache downplayed the risk of the project being orphaned, emphasizing the strong community around NetBeans. NetBeans runs on Windows, Mac, Linux, and Solaris and  has enabled development of web, desktop, and mobile applications primarily for Java and HTML5, Oracle noted in its statement. PHP and C/C++ development also have been enabled on the IDE.

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