Sun Microsystems has announced that it is to release the programming language Java to the open source community under the GPL. The company has announced the open-sourcing of both its Java Platform Standard Edition (Java SE) and its Java Platform Micro Edition (Java ME) under GPLv2. This means that developers anywhere in the world can use, develop and share Java for free, in exactly the same way that the Linux kernel can be shared, developed with and used.

Previously, Sun has released Java under its own open-source license, the Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL). Now that Java is under the GPL, Sun are keen to point out the merits of the move, whilst at the same time claiming that the change should not be seen as a failure of CDDL. Whilst the GPL will likely work out much better for Java, convincing developers to adopt a newer open-source license has taken more time and effort than Sun might have liked.

As a consequence of this move, it is likely that Linux distributions such as Debian and Red Hat will bundle Java into their operating systems - which is exactly what Sun wants. The rest of Sun’s open-source software, including its OpenSolaris operating system, will continue to be offered under CDDL.

"The open sourcing of this really means more: more richness of offerings, more capability, more applications that consumers will get to use," Rich Green, Sun's executive vice president of software, said. "The platform itself will become a place for innovation."