On the future of Eclipse

Another great post by Bjorn on life at Eclipse in the new world and a great follow up by Michael Scharf on his thoughts on major changes needed to get there. These two posts made me think about what I’d like to see as a way to take Eclipse forward into the future.

Bjorn draws up a nice, clean looking “architecture” on how the cycle of value feeds the Eclipse ecosystem. Committer -> Project -> Product -> Profit -> Committer… Unfortunately there’s a week point in this cycle which I fear will blow the whole thing up, and that’s the assumption that vendors making profit on Eclipse-based products will be compelled to fund Committers working on open source projects feeding those products. I’ve seen too many vendors in this position not do that.

It’s frustrating to see so many products based on the CDT and less than half of them contribute back to improve the CDT. Maybe the existing committers have done so good a job that they don’t have to. Or maybe they’re not big enough to devote developers to the cause in a significant fashion to justify the cost. What ever the case, we all know how hard it to bring in new contributors. You need to “Create the Need” for them to come. It certainly isn’t out of good will, especially in these times.

Assuming the cycle fails all together, how do we ensure Eclipse projects remain healthy with new contributions? Michael brings up a solution that I’ve wanted to see for a while. He brings it up from an architectural perspective, which is what he does :), but I bring it up from a political perspective. The members should fund a team of core developers to ensure critical Eclipse projects continue to grow. These developers would be vendor neutral other than to follow the wishes of the members. The Foundation can help co-ordinate this but it’s really on the Eclipse membership to make it happen.

The best example of this I know is with the Linux Foundation where they state that one of their goals is “Protecting and Supporting Linux Development”. Now Linus doesn’t work for the Foundation, but the members do fund his work there to ensure he can continue to work full-time and independently on the kernel. I’m not sure how well this is working in practice, especially with people other than Linus. But it’s worthy of a look.

Interestingly enough, a lot of the members of the Linux Foundation are also members of the Eclipse Foundation. But, would such a policy work at Eclipse?