An Open Letter to Jonathan Schwartz and Miguel de Icaza

March 25, 2008

Jonathan, you are leading the development of a Free Software, high-quality, multi-language VM runtime with an extensive class library, called OpenJDK.
Miguel, you are leading the development of a Free Software, high-quality, multi-language VM runtime with an extensive class library, called Mono.

How about a merge? We’ll call the new project “OpenVM”, for convenience in this letter.

Let’s jump right in to the advantages for the projects:

Advantages for Mono

In one word – control. Miguel, your original goal with Mono was to bring a modern and Free Software development stack to GNOME and Linux. In many respects, you and the Mono community have been succeesful, helping spur the creation useful applications for the Free desktop, as well as getting Mono deployed in interesting applications like Second Life. However, you are largely not in control of your destiny. You’re stuck implementing a clone of what Microsoft creates, and besides the fact that cloning something is much less fun for your engineers, you can’t help but be behind.

By helping to create the OpenVM project, you will regain control. In an OpenVM effort, drawing on the common shared work of several corporations (Sun, Novell, Red Hat, Google, and IBM, to name a few), your engineers get to help design the future of Free Software. You will instantly remove all hesitation that the Free Software community has about your work, and have been the a key part of not one but two cornerstone projects for Free Software (GNOME, and Mono->OpenVM).

Advantages for OpenJDK

Jonathan, you have said you want to take the J out of JVM. By stepping up and adding Mono technology like a high quality C# compiler to this OpenVM effort, in the short term you will regain the eroding market share of the JVM on Windows by allowing interoperability between the growing C# code base and existing Java code. In the longer term, developer attraction to OpenVM will let you accelerate improvements to Java, and reverse gains in C# market share.
Moreover, the community agile languages such as Ruby and Python are nearly certain to join an OpenVM effort. Your company will again be at the core of the stack for the vast majority of the computing industry, from the Free Software community to the proprietary applications.

From the Free Software side, turning Mono from a Microsoft technology clone into a part of a truly Free project would eliminate the increasing use of .NET in the community.

Finally, leveraging the Mono team would bring a number of excellent engineers who know the Free desktop very well, having created high-quality bindings for GNOME, and Free applications that many people use.

Advantages for the Free Software community

The Free Software community has long been split between developers using Free and agile languages like Ruby and Python, the the Mono-based community, and a huge community of developers in the world who used in the formerly-proprietary Java in Free projects like Apache. A combined OpenJDK and Mono would dramatically further the merge of all three of these communities, increasing the control the Free Software community has over the stack and reducing duplication of HTTP libraries, database access libraries, etc.


Obviously, there would be many details to work out in such an effort, like how the class libraries could be merged. My intuition is that initially OpenVM would have both JDK and .NET “personalities”. Over time, the Mono .NET class library would be rebased on top of an evolved JDK class library, and eventually the .NET personality could be relegated to a separate “OpenVM-.NET emulation” project as most applications are ported to use the OpenVM JDK-based class library.

But the details are just that – where there’s a will there is a way. So the open question is – who will register the domain name first?

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