Twitter has announced they’ve signed the Contributor Agreement for OpenJDK and plan to be active participants. Also, they announced that they’ve joined the JCP.
As an ecosystem guy, I find the fact that Twitter signaled their participation to be very important. It’s not because of their very cool and popular brand, or that they’re loaded with engineers with world class reputations, or that they’re running one of the fastest growing and massively scaled software projects on the planet (although, those all certainly are nice). From my perspective, it’s the fact they’re not an ISV*. They do not generate product revenue by selling software licenses. If OpenJDK were just and only about the Oracle/IBM/SAP’s of the world, plus individuals who sell consultancy hours, or to further academic research, based on their close participation, then I think OpenJDK would eventually suffer for it.
In my mind, there are three waves of participation in open source projects. First, it’s usually initiated by an ISV and other ISV’s in the same industry. If the project is very niche, or doesn’t really flourish, that will be it. But if successful, and if the project is platform/infrastructure oriented, we should expect to see a second wave of participants that are largely software companies, but where the software license is not the product itself. Twitter would be a great example of this – Twitter is software, but the software license is not the product. Beyond that, if the project continues to be successful we should see a third phase of participation from non-software companies. Companies where the software is critical, but it’s not largely the product. More consumer oriented organizations, where the software is a means to an end. I’m thinking of banks, insurance companies, auto makers, etc.
These non-ISV participants serve incredibly important roles. Simply put, they add diversity to a project. More specifically, they can best represent end users of the project because they are the end users of the project. They’re the ones that feel the most pain of any missteps and being able to directly influence outcomes is a huge win for everyone.
If OpenJDK continues on it’s march, we should see more Twitter like participation, and hopefully even broader participation.
*ISV = “Independent Software Vendor”. I.e., a company that received a significant percentage of their revenue from software licensing and related activities.