Jun 02

Copyright © Joshua Gajownik for opensource.com. Used under Creative Commons License.Oracle’s relationship with the open-source community has been rocky at best. 

Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems in 2009, which also gave Oracle control of the open-source Java programming language.  Which Oracle promptly used to sue Google over its use of Java code in the Android mobile operating system.

“During the integration meetings between Sun and Oracle where we were being grilled about the patent situation between Sun and Google, we could see the Oracle lawyer’s eyes sparkle,” wrote Java co-creator James Gosling.

Earlier in 2009 the creator of MySQL, Monty Widenius, left Sun to start MariaDB, a vendor-neutral fork of MySQL.  He was worried what Oracle would do with MySQL if it acquired Sun and even petitioned the European Commission to compel Oracle to keep MySQL as open source.  Last November, some fears were realized when Oracle quadrupled the cost of MySQL support for small businesses.  Oracle countered that it was actually offering “more functionality and 24×7, unlimited incidents, premier support at lower price.” 

In April, Oracle discontinued commercial development of the OpenOffice.org office suite after it was forked to create a vendor-neutral alternative.  See a pattern here?

The root of this conflict is that Oracle looks at open-source software very differently than the open-source community itself.  Eben Moglen, founder of the Software Freedom Law Center, captures the spirit of the open-source community when he says, “When we are defending [software] freedom, we are not defending it against business.  But sometimes, we are defending it against greed.”

Oracle certainly presents itself as open-source friendly: “Oracle is committed to offering choice, flexibility, and lower cost of computing for end users. By investing significant resources in developing, testing, optimizing, and supporting open source technologies such as MySQL, OpenOffice.org, GlassFish, Linux, PHP, Apache, Eclipse, Berkeley DB, NetBeans, VirtualBox, Xen, and InnoDB, Oracle is clearly embracing and offering leading open source solutions as a viable choice for development and deployment.”

Oracle is also a successful for-profit company and has always had a strong emphasis on the “profit” part of the equation.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  It’s nice to see an American company making money.  Perhaps Sun was more philanthropic toward open source, but look at who bought whom.

Founder and CEO Larry Ellison clearly stated Oracle’s position on open source in a 2006 interview:  “If an open source product gets good enough, we’ll simply take it.  Take [the web server software] Apache: once Apache got better than our own web server, we threw it away and took Apache.  So the great thing about open source is nobody owns it – a company like Oracle is free to take it for nothing, include it in our products and charge for support, and that’s what we’ll do.”

Perhaps Oracle’s “Hello, World” code best demonstrates its view of open source software: “Copyright (c) 1995, 2008, Oracle and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.”  Or put another way: “There’s money to be made here.”

* Copyright (c) 1995, 2008, Oracle and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved. 

* Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without * modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions * are met: * *   - Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright *     notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer. * *   - Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright *     notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the *     documentation and/or other materials provided with the distribution. * *   - Neither the name of Oracle or the names of its *     contributors may be used to endorse or promote products derived *     from this software without specific prior written permission. * * THIS SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED BY THE COPYRIGHT HOLDERS AND CONTRIBUTORS "AS * IS" AND ANY EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, * THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR * PURPOSE ARE DISCLAIMED.  IN NO EVENT SHALL THE COPYRIGHT OWNER OR * CONTRIBUTORS BE LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, * EXEMPLARY, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES (INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, * PROCUREMENT OF SUBSTITUTE GOODS OR SERVICES; LOSS OF USE, DATA, OR * PROFITS; OR BUSINESS INTERRUPTION) HOWEVER CAUSED AND ON ANY THEORY OF * LIABILITY, WHETHER IN CONTRACT, STRICT LIABILITY, OR TORT (INCLUDING * NEGLIGENCE OR OTHERWISE) ARISING IN ANY WAY OUT OF THE USE OF THIS * SOFTWARE, EVEN IF ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGE. */ /** * The HelloWorldApp class implements an application that * simply prints "Hello World!" to standard output. */ class HelloWorldApp {       public static void main(String[] args) {           System.out.println("Hello World!"); // Display the string.       } }
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Article published on June 2, 2011

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