NetBeans, Eclipse, Community?

Reading through some recent discussion on javalobby.org, indeed I also read through the eWeek article they basically referred to feel like adding a few thoughts of mine to that very discussion – community-driven vs. company-driven:


Regarding NetBeans, Milinkovich said Sun does a good job of marketing the things NetBeans does better than Eclipse, such as Java profiling and GUI building with the Matisse technology.

“I think the thing they oversell themselves on is the platform; Eclipse is clearly superior,” Milinkovich said. That said, “It’s not Eclipse versus NetBeans. That’s an apples and oranges comparison because NetBeans is a Sun product, not an open community. It is a Sun product that they sell support for.”

Overally, I don’t really think talking about “clearly superior” platforms is not the whole point (even though possibly one might spend some interesting discussions on some basic things, in example the almost total lack of concise, complete, up-to-date Eclipse RCP documentation, the fact that, looking at “core” technologies, some bugs take aeons to be fixed if they’re adressed at all [X11 printing finally made it to Eclipse in 3.3 …], the use of SWT and the implications of losing portability by making use of JNI for GUI display). To me, the “company-vs.-community” aspect indeed is more interesting: Yes, Eclipse does have a strong community so far, a community which adds a lot of functionality and features to the IDE. Yes, so far most of the NetBeans development is being done by Sun engineers and developers (possibly also due to the fact that the “community” itself still is rather limited). Initially, most if not all the Eclipse code base has been contributed by IBM (indeed, a company, not “just” a humble developer community), and still IBM folks of course do make use of Eclipse for their very own commercial / proprietary products like WebSphere Studio. By now, there is Eclipse Foundation being in charge of maintaining, coordinating and pushing forth Eclipse technology development, a foundation consisting of a large set of companies and individuals sharing a common interest in the very platform and “ecosystem”. This way, Eclipse has obviously made its way from merely being “an IBM product” to being an open development community around the Eclipse platform.

I am not sure however what the “community-vs.-company” thing does mean to me being a “mere user” of either platform:

  • Given both projects do make use of an open-source license (EPL in case of Eclipse, CDDL and GPL+classpath-exception in case of NetBeans), I can have access to the source files possibly modify parts of the application for my very own needs (if I ever feel like doing so…) in both cases. Same way, both licensing schemes do provide a sufficient legal environment for building and redistributing applications of my own using either one of both platforms for rich client development (although EPL might be a little more “liberal” here – IANAL).
  • Given I’d feel like becoming an active part in developing either platform, no one is likely to keep me from building NetBeans modules same as no one keeps me from building an Eclipse plugin and providing it using an appropriate distribution mechanism, like the remote update site feature provided by both IDEs.
  • Given I wanted to modify part of the core functionality and/or submit patches to any part of the application maintained by anyone else (the project team in charge in case of Eclipse, or the responsible Sun engineer in case of NetBeans), in both situations I would have to submit my modification to someone and wait for it to be (or not to be) included into the “regular” code base.
  • Same way, I assume no one keeps me from providing support, writing tutorials, or offering other kinds of services for either of these platforms.

So, overally, I don’t really get the point. Maybe I am overlooking something essential, but so far I don’t see where there’s the difference between an open-source platform being maintained as a company product and an open-source platform being maintained by some kind of foundation. Ideas and/ or thoughts on that, anyone?

3 thoughts on “NetBeans, Eclipse, Community?”

  1. > Maybe I am overlooking something essential

    Yes you do. Sun and only Sun controls the direction of the project. Only Sun decides what technologies will be supported by NetBeans. Keep in mind that 99.9% of the NetBeans-codebase is made by Sun.

    NetBeans is just the opposite of a grassroot-project. Off course you can simply take the code and make some modifications but NetBeans supports out-of-the-box only those technologies that Sun wants.

    NetBeans has no support for GWT, for SWT and probably even not for Android. There is no true democratic government in NetBeans. It is a pseudo-government. Sun and only Sun makes all decisisions. They have a blocking minority. NetBeans is not too different from proprietary software like Microsoft’s Visual Studio. Just like Sun and NetBeans it is Microsoft controlling all aspects of their developer-tools.

  2. I just wanted to add another comment. NetBeans has no support for the most important web-language PHP. But NetBeans supports Ruby on the Rails. Why is Sun or NetBeans negligating the most important web-language PHP in favour of another much less important technology like Ruby on Rails?

    Because of the hype-factor of RoR. But who the heck makes decisions based on current hype? Only some marketing-guys.

    Eclipse has fantastic PHP-support brought to you by the PHP mother-company Zend. That’s the difference between Eclipse and NetBeans by the way. Zend is member of the Eclipse-consortium and they do what they can do to produce the best PHP-IDE. Sun has no interest AT ALL to support PHP.

    Can you see the difference between Eclipse and NetBeans now? If not I feel sorry for you.

  3. > NetBeans is just the opposite of a grassroot-project. Off course you
    > can simply take the code and make some modifications but NetBeans
    > supports out-of-the-box only those technologies that Sun wants.
    […]
    > NetBeans has no support for GWT, for SWT and probably even not for Android.

    Indeed yes, but what does keep one from building an extension / module / plugin / whatever to introduce support for arbitrary technologies as needed or wanted? Aside the fact that I don’t really miss SWT support that much, what does “out-of-the-box” support mean? Isn’t that why we’re talking about “modular” and “extensible” platforms, after all?

    > NetBeans has no support for the most important web-language PHP.
    > But NetBeans supports Ruby on the Rails. Why is Sun or NetBeans
    > negligating the most important web-language PHP in favour of
    > another much less important technology like Ruby on Rails?

    For what I see (and have read on several NB mailing lists), indeed the pushing forth of RoR has been a “political” decision as it seems an immensely attractive platform right now (for whichever reasons). For what I see however, NetBeans has PHP support provided by the scripting project (which might or might not be preliminary – haven’t actively used PHP in ages).

    As another example: I dearly miss Python support in NetBeans. Eclipse does have Python extensions, which are provided by an external project. From that point of view, where’s the difference between building an external module for Eclipse or for NetBeans? In both cases, these extensions would be community-contributed…

    > Eclipse has fantastic PHP-support brought to you by the PHP
    > mother-company Zend. That’s the difference between Eclipse and
    > NetBeans by the way. Zend is member of the Eclipse-consortium and
    > they do what they can do to produce the best PHP-IDE.

    Yes, but that indeed is a political decision of Zend I assume – likewise I presume no one would keep Zend from building a NetBeans PHP plug-in module. For what I see here, the “real” difference is sort of “user-based” rather than “development-style-based”: Eclipse is immensely wide-spread right now while NetBeans is just at the very edge of creating a notable open source developer / user community… ?

Comments are closed.