A “love triangle” about Eclipse

Produced | OSC Open Source Community (ID: oschina2013)

In the 1990s, computers in the world were either not networked, or were networked within a company. However, under the concept of the Internet, the need to share information and resources between computers has become necessary.

In May 1995, Java was born. Java’s father was Sun, which was in the limelight at the time with the Solaris operating system. At that time, most high-level language programs needed to be compiled for different computers before they could be run. Java, a high-level programming language, does not require a hardware-related compiler, but runs while interpreting it at runtime. In this way, Java programs are not limited by the computing platform, just to meet the needs of sharing.

As you can imagine, the popularity of Java is inevitable. However, the fire of Eclipse was unexpected. Java is easy to use, but the corresponding compiler is not. Moreover, the compilers at that time were pitiful, and Eclipse, an open source and easy-to-use Java IDE, was invincible all over the world.

At that time, open source foundations were also very few. In 2004, Eclipse established a foundation and transformed itself into a world-renowned open source foundation. Then, with the acquisition of SUN by Oracle, Oracle donated Java EE to Eclipse, which became an important cornerstone of the Java home base.

Today, Java has been underrated for many years, and many new languages ​​are said to replace Java. Now, open source foundations are also springing up, and the Eclipse Foundation has undergone several major changes. Will anyone else be interested in their story?

a triangular relationship

If you don’t go back, no one would think that behind the Eclipse Open Source Foundation is the Big Blue IBM.

IBM has always been a big patent owner, having been the company with the most patents, if not one, for many years. They have raised a large team of intellectual property lawyers to hit hard against patent infringers. It seems that IBM is inherently insulated from open source.

But the benefits are eternal. In 1996, IBM acquired OIT (Object Technology International), which developed Smalltalk and the Java integrated development environment VisualAge. It is said that VisualAge’s code was worth $40 million at the time , and IBM said without blinking that it would eliminate the market pain point of incompatible development environments and increase the reusability of common components in these environments. In 2001, a product born from the ground up as an integration platform for development environments was born, and it has since become the foundation of the entire IBM tools strategy.

IBM named this product “Eclipse”, which means “eclipse”. A lot of people say it’s a really bad name, and before that there was Eclipse Cars, there was Eclipse Gum, and there was Eclipse Women’s Soccer. IBM’s lawyers also objected to the already rotten name.

But IBM went its own way. In November 2001, IBM bought the eclipse.org domain name from the football team at an irresistible price. What is even more unexpected is that Eclipse is open source, and IBM has established an open source license and operation model for it, not only contributing a lot of source code, developers, but also legal consulting assistance on open source agreements.

It’s IBM’s boldest open source “bet.”

—James Governor, analyst at IT consulting firm Illuminata

IBM’s decision to open source is a revolutionary move. At that time, software open source collaborative development was still a very novel idea, and the success of Eclipse demonstrated the advantages of the open source model.

—Mike Milinkovich, Executive Director, Eclipse Foundation

Having said that, the name is somewhat related to the meaning of SUN (Sun). SUN has always been brooding about this, and at the same time, Eclipse has demonstrated its powerful capabilities, making SUN’s own compiler NetBeans eclipsed, and gradually grow into the leader of Java IDE.

In 2004, Eclipse officially declared its independence and established the Eclipse Open Source Foundation , which is headquartered in Ottawa, Canada. It no longer relies on the founder IBM, but turned to the industry, allowing other technology suppliers and even IBM’s opponents to join Eclipse. Board of Directors, to help decide the future direction.

Faced with this invitation, SUN’s first reaction was no. It is known that on the eve of the establishment of the Eclipse Foundation, SUN was considering whether to join or not. In addition to the technical aspect, one of the most important concerns was Eclipse the name. SUN said that if the foundation does not agree to change the name, they are not ready to join. And the company’s executives also said that they would not join an organization with a name that would kill SUN.

At the time, it was widely believed that IBM dominated Eclipse and wanted to push its own Java software, which created a gap between IBM and Sun. But at that time, IBM executives also refuted the rumors, saying that the name Eclispe was not meant to restrain SUN, please don’t be selfish.

The third party, Microsoft, only surfaced in 2005. In his March 2005 EclipseCon keynote speech, Lee Nackman, CTO of IBM Rational software and vice president of design, build, and test tools, said Microsoft was the company IBM wanted to “gobble up.”

Our target is Microsoft. Microsoft is the market leader and is emerging as the tool platform that dominates the market. Obviously, we need to compete for more developer base. So, around 1998, we felt that the competition between application servers and middleware was key, and we needed to bring developers back to Java-based middleware.

In early 2001, IBM was troubled by the growing ecosystem of Visual Studio and Microsoft. We decided to compete with Windows and Visual Studio. Therefore, Eclipse The target was, and is, Microsoft, not Sun.

It’s a good one-arrow drama with a twist. Anyone will say that IBM “doesn’t marry anyone”? However, when you think about it calmly, everything seems to follow.

Not to mention the “old debt” between IBM and Microsoft for the DOS operating system. At the beginning of the 21st century, the Internet broke out, and Microsoft, which relied on personal computers, was in full swing. In addition to Windows, it also developed the C# language and .Net platform to compete with Java . In the eyes of IBM, which is heavily involved in Java, it can be described as “old debts and new hatreds”.

When the Eclipse Foundation was established in 2004, there was speculation that it would help fend off competition from Microsoft tools and Windows-based software. To be more competitive, IBM or Eclipse must come up with stronger products.

However, the triangular relationship between IBM, SUN and Microsoft is not as simple as one might imagine. Because there was a “love-hate relationship” between Microsoft and SUN, which proves that Microsoft is suppressing Java.

As soon as Java was born, SUN had the dream of realizing cross-operating system platform through Java, which made Microsoft very envious. In 1996, Microsoft purchased a license for Java from Sun. However, Microsoft did not provide users with products developed in Java according to the contract, but developed its own similar products through SUN’s technology.

To this end, SUN took Microsoft to court. The lawsuit didn’t end in SUN’s victory until 2001, when a court ruled that Microsoft suppressed Java by misleading Java developers and preventing them from developing products compatible with Java technology. However, at this time Microsoft’s ASP has gained a larger market share.

A drop of tears

Beating the point of Visual Studio and the Microsoft ecosystem, Eclipse was once very close. Unfortunately, it didn’t end. Among Zhihu related questions, the first-ranked answer is somewhat sentimental.

Indeed, the Eclipse IDE was the first ace project of the Eclipse Foundation. At that time, there was no IDE that unified the world for Java development, which was rare and expensive. The Eclipse IDE appeared in front of everyone as open source and free, and it was relatively faster and supported by Google. It was also highly regarded in various textbooks. Few people are like treasures, and their reputation is extremely high.

The following two pictures were taken by Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, in several speeches, to prove that the Eclipse IDE was once the best:

The turning point came in 2014 with the release of Eclipse 4.4 Luna. If the previous Eclipse IDE’s shortcomings do not hide its shortcomings, then in the development in the next few years, its shortcomings will gradually emerge. There was a bad Eclipse article that pointed to this version:

If there was a point in time that marked the death of Eclipse, it must have been the release of Eclipse 4. In the Eclipse 3.x era, Eclipse did a great job and dominated all development tools. But suddenly, as if they decided to kill themselves, they rewrote all the UI code.

In the 3.x era, Eclipse was a very fast IDE, and with every Release, it added a variety of useful features. With Eclipse 4, everything changed, it was slower, the UI was buggy, and it was ugly. It seems like Eclipse has taken a few years backwards.

Some people attribute the reason to the fact that Eclipse no longer values ​​IDE products and is more loyal to promoting the Eclipse Foundation; others believe that Intellij is the real culprit of Eclipse’s decline: “Every time you use Eclipse, you feel that you are still The only reason to use it is to be too poor to afford Intellij.”

Previously, at the Google I/O conference in June 2013, Google launched a new Android IDE “Android Studio”. Originally, it was developed in cooperation with Eclipse; then, Google “reversed” and devoted itself to IntelliJ to create today’s Android Studio. As a result, the biggest change in “Android Studio” at this conference was the switch from Eclipse to IntelliJ IDEA.

2013-2014 seems to be a watershed for Eclipse and its foundation. According to the data, the Eclipse Foundation was in a state of financial loss from 2012 to 2014.

Immediately, in June 2015, Google decided to focus on building Android Studio, and announced that it would stop supporting other integrated development environments, such as Eclipse, at the end of the year. In August, the Eclipse Foundation began seeking donations from individuals or organizations to fund its open source projects.

At the same time, the Eclipse Foundation also said that their initial focus is on improving the core Eclipse platform, JDT and Web tools, and will expand to more projects in the future. This is a signal of transformation.

Today, according to the data in May 2022, Eclipse IDE still occupies the second position on the list, receiving 14.21% of the attention, and it seems that it has not fallen off the altar as others have advocated.


However, they seem to have given up on their plans to go after Microsoft. In their 2021 annual report, their strategic goals include: communicating the Eclipse Foundation’s differentiated value proposition, establishing the Eclipse Foundation as the pre-eminent European OSS organization, nurturing projects and working groups for emerging technologies, and more.

You must know that for more than ten years, their annual report strategic position has always been ranked first with a similar expression like “becoming the preferred developer platform”.

a failed negotiation

2018 was a year of significant change in the Java community, as stewardship of enterprise Java was transferred from Oracle and the Java Community Process (JCP) to the Eclipse Foundation. It is necessary to mention that it is Oracle because it acquired Sun in 2010.

Mike Milinkovich described the transfer in an interview:

We absolutely welcome Java EE to the Eclipse Foundation. While it’s a lot of work, the Eclipse Foundation has deep roots in the Java community and enterprise.

We felt this was a match made in heaven and a great opportunity for us. Beyond that, I think Jakarta EE will drive a lot of developers to finally realize that the Eclipse Foundation has projects beyond our Java IDE.

Clearly, this is a good thing in the Eclipse Foundation’s view, cementing the Eclipse Foundation’s importance in the Java world. But I don’t know if everyone found a “Chinese point”, the Java EE after the transfer was renamed Jakarta EE. This was due to a failed negotiation .

In short, Oracle donates Java EE to the Eclipse Foundation under several conditions:

1) Products distributed by the Eclipse Foundation (eg Eclipse IDE) must only run bundled with Java certified by Oracle (and not by any other vendor). This would undermine the Foundation’s “vendor neutral” stance.

2) Oracle requires that the Eclipse Foundation cannot modify the old code. If it needs to be modified, it must be renamed, including the name of the project and the name of the software package. This means that existing applications cannot run on the updated platform without refactoring and re-editing.

A bit of the meaning of the overlord clause. At that time, many people persuaded Oracle to allow the Eclipse Foundation to continue to use the Java name. After all, Java EE was renamed from J2EE before, and frequent renaming would cause trouble for users and lead to market confusion.

But Oracle didn’t budge. After months of negotiations, the two finally reached a consensus: Jakarta EE cannot release modifications to the base library javax, nor can Jakarta EE specifications use existing specification names that include the Java trademark.

Therefore, there are concerns that Oracle will kill Java EE to some extent. But most importantly, it underscores the weak position of open source foundations in the face of large corporations.

behind a move

In May 2020, the Eclipse Foundation announced that it would move its headquarters to Brussels, Belgium in Europe.

The move is planned for completion in July 2020. By then, the Eclipse Foundation will have headquarters in Belgium, Canada and the United States, but its official headquarters will be in Europe. The Eclipse and Eclipse Foundation names, trademarks and brands will be controlled by the new Belgian entity. Furthermore, future membership fees for the Eclipse Foundation are denominated in euros.

In addition to this, the Eclipse Foundation is building a new platform based on GitLab, hosted on servers in Europe.

This is reminiscent of Microsoft’s acquisition of GitHub in 2019. At the time, Microsoft, Eclipse’s longtime nemesis, was increasing its support for open source in an unprecedented manner. This worries Mike Milinkovich:

Microsoft is moving toward another form of total monopoly that could jeopardize other companies and projects, including the Eclipse IDE. The combination of GitHub + VS Code is already very popular, and this monolithic culture can cause anxiety.

Of course, we can’t attribute the Eclipse Foundation’s move to Microsoft, which is a strategic imperative:

First, two-thirds of the Eclipse Foundation’s committers are located in European countries. Mike Milinkovich said that the Eclipse Foundation is already the largest open source organization in Europe;

Second, Mike Milinkovich believes that Europe is paying more and more attention to the value of open source and development, and although there are some open source organizations in Europe, they mainly adhere to a single project, and there is no open source foundation that hosts hundreds of projects. This is an opportunity for the Eclipse Foundation to build a truly global open source organization.

Our (Eclipse Foundation) work in the US somewhat limits itself. In the United States, we do have a certain number of research laboratories and government agencies and cooperation, and some US-funded research institutions also have links with us.

However, in my opinion, Europe is more advanced than the US in terms of policy, and European research institutions are more willing to embrace open source from the outside. Recently, there has been a growing trend in Europe to use open source methods for the publication and dissemination of research results. For years, they have encouraged researchers or developers to build communities.

—Mike Milinkovich

Conclusion: things are right and wrong, and they must be together after a long time.

Day and star shift. The love-hate relationship between IBM/Eclipse, SUN and Microsoft seems to have drifted away with the wind.

In 2010, Sun Corporation was acquired by Oracle Corporation. Although the negotiation with Oracle in 2018 failed, it has nothing to do with SUN. Eclipse got Java EE, further cementing its authority in the Java community.

In August 2021, Microsoft announced that it will become a strategic member of the Eclipse Foundation and join its board of directors.

In fact, as early as 2016, Microsoft joined the Eclipse Foundation as a solution member and provided a set of development tools and services at that time. Now, the cooperation between the two is even closer. Microsoft praises the Eclipse Foundation:

1) The Eclipse Foundation has deep expertise in vendor neutral governance, infrastructure, marketing, community building and developer advocacy efforts.

2) The Eclipse Foundation remains an important cornerstone of the Java ecosystem, with close ties to the core part of the Java community.

3) The Eclipse Foundation is expanding its role through working groups, many of which are important to Microsoft and its partners.

Sure enough, thirty years Hedong, thirty years Hexi.

The text and pictures in this article are from the OSC open source community


This article is reprinted from https://www.techug.com/post/a-love-triangle-about-eclipsed7e513c0c7399ad38a56/
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