Oracle Proposes That NetBeans Moves To Apache UPDATE
Written by Mike James   
Friday, 16 September 2016

Our new item on September 14 that Oracle was asking the Apache Software Foundation to accept NetBeans into the Apache Foundation led to a welcome repsonse from Oracle to reassure us that it will continue to support the project for at least two releases.

UPDATE 16th September

One of the concerns expressed in this news report and in the comments below is that Oracle might currently have paid programmers working on NetBeans, but there was no stated commitment to the future when a more heterogeneous open source community might be expected to take over.

In response to these worries  Bill Pataky, Vice President, Product for Oracle's Developer Tools and Mobile Developer Program writes:

"We have 3 products that depend on NetBeans:

    • Oracle Developer Studio, our commercial C, C++, Fortran and Java development environment is 100% based on NetBeans
    • Oracle JDeveloper, our  end-to-end development for Oracle's technology stack takes major subsystems from NetBeans
    • Oracle JavaScript Extension Toolkit, our modular open source toolkit based on modern JavaScript, CSS3 and HTML5 design and development principles uses NetBeans as its preferred IDE

Oracle has 26 developers registered as committers at Apache and we expect this number to grow.  As to how long we will continue to staff the project, we can say at least 2 releases which is as far as our planning horizon goes at this point."

As a NetBeans user I am please to read, this but I doubt it will settle the mind of any user worried that Oracle isn't really behind open source and Java in particle. In this case I can't really see what Oracle could do to allay the doubts - I guess it's all about long term relationships and trust. 



September 14

NetBeans is often regarded as the also ran in the IDE stakes, but this is more an error of perception than reality. Lots of people use it and lots of people think it is better than the alternatives - me for one. Now the news is worrying. Oracle, a company well known for caring little for open source, is trying to get Apache to take on NetBeans. Is this the end, or the beginning... 

If you don't use NetBeans, and especially if you use Eclipse, you might not be too worried about its fate. But you should be. Oracle took over Sun's collection of open source software when it took over Sun and it hasn't done a particularly good job of managing the projects. So far we have seen Open Office move to Apache and slow down development to the point where rumors of its closure seem all too believable. While MySQL hasn't suffered the same fate, presumably because Oracle is making some money out of the enterprise edition, it did spark the fork to MariaDB and the community is still worried that the enterprise edition is hurting the core open source MySQL. Of course, there is also Java which has been a source of worry since Oracle took over control. 

NetBeans looks like being the next source of anxiety.

While it started out aimed at Java, today it is a full featured IDE that can cope with HTML, JavaScript, PHP, C and C++, plus a few others via plugins. It is reasonably fast and does all of the things you expect from a modern IDE - and it doesn't crash much, which is what finally made me switch from Eclipse. 

At the moment NetBeans is, in my opinion, the number one cross-platform multi-language open source IDE. 




Now the news is that it is being considered for adoption by the Apache Foundation. To most this presumably looks like Oracle giving up on NetBeans and leaving it to fend for itself in Apache. Look what happened to Open Office, and to many other projects. The disasters are so numerous that some are saying that Apache is where projects go to die. On the other hand NetBeans has 1.5 million users and a thriving community, so perhaps it will survive the transition and emerge stronger than ever.

The problem with this rosy view of things is that it ignores the support that Oracle currently provides the project. Most of the commits are by Oracle programmers paid for by Oracle. Given how focused Oracle is on its bottom line profit, it is likely the the plan is to cut support for NetBeans by not paying for programmers to work on it. 

What is absolutely clear is that Oracle plans to save some money by not having to support NetBeans. It has asked that Apache takes over and migrates: 

  • the large existing Mercurial repository to Apache Git
  • internal Oracle release infrastructure to Apache infrastructure
  • plugin publication system,, to Apache infrastructure
  • website and related content management system to Apache infrastructure
  • any other infrastructure that they might have missed. 

There is currently no word on how many paid programmers Oracle will supply or let go. 

So is this the end for NetBeans?

Probably not, but only because it is so well developed. It is a fairly mature product which only really needs maintenance to keep it up with the latest language releases. It doesn't really seem to need any deep cleaning of the code base, which Open Office needed when it was forked to LibreOffice. And there isn't a faction that want to fork it to another project and so split its programming resources. 

The conclusion, and this is my conclusion, is that in this case things are not as bad as they might seem to be at first look. Yes, Oracle is trying to dump NetBeans but the community can probably carry it. What happens if Apache decides not to take it is a bigger and more worrying question - it can hardy move to the Eclipse Foundation!

If you haven't tried NetBeans I urge you to give it a go - you will be pleasantly surprised, unless of course you're a "emacs is enough" sort of programmer.


More Information


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