Yesterday, the NetBeans team announced plans to move NetBeans from Oracle to Apache. This move was met by a mix of skepticism and optimism. I’ve ranged between the two myself, to be honest, but I’ve landed on optimsim.
My first thought, snarky as it is, was that "Apache is where projects go to die". Think Apache OpenOffice. After discussing that with some peers, though, I remembered that 1) OpenOffice was already mostly dead before the move (and not even Miracle Max could fix that) and 2) there are a lot of projects that are thriving at Apache such as Cassandra, Hadoop, Maven, Tomcat/TomEE, and the eponymous HTTP server. Moving to Apache, then, isn’t a kiss of death and all, and, given that Apache has over 300 projects, we’re going to see some die from time to time. That’s life in software.
I think, though, that this move could be very good overall for NetBeans for the reasons given by various Dream Team members: transparency, easier access, better infrastructure, etc. There’s also a possible political side where some may shy away from contributing (or even using) because it’s an Oracle product, but now might be tempted to give it a go with the Apache label on it. That’s pretty silly and I have nothing to back it up, but I would be shocked if that weren’t the case for at least a small number.
All that said, here’s my biggest concern. I worry that over time, Oracle will spend less and less on the project. They do have another IDE, and they already spend quite a bit building tools for Eclipse, so they may decide that it doesn’t make business sense to continue to invest in the platform (some have argued that this is the reason for this move). When Oracle bought Sun, they continued to invest in GlassFish for some time, then decided that it wasn’t making enough money and rather abruptly pulled most of us off the project. I fear that might play out again with NetBeans. Only time will tell, of course, and NetBeans seems to be more importantly strategically for Oracle, with other products integrating with or building on the platform. We’ll see.
All told, though, I think this is a great move that, while it does carry some risk, holds tremendous promise for this great IDE and platform.