ACM Recognizes Eclipse
This morning the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) announced that Eclipse has been awarded the Software System Award. This is truly a prestigious honour. To put this into perspective, past winners of this award include systems such as Java, Apache, Mosaic, the World Wide Web, Smalltalk, and UNIX.
Awarded to an institution or individual(s) recognized for developing a software system that has had a lasting influence, reflected in contributions to concepts, in commercial acceptance, or both.
The names listed on the award are a who’s who of the original Eclipse development team from IBM who built Eclipse. They are: John Wiegand, Dave Thomson, Gregory Adams, Philippe Mulet, Julian Jones, John Duimovich, and Kevin Haaland; now at Oracle: Stephen Northover; and now at Microsoft: Erich Gamma. Congratulations to all of them for such a well-deserved recognition. But also congratulations to the whole team. Obviously, not every single contributor could be named, but this award is a recognition of what was achieved by all involved.
On a personal note, it is incredibly gratifying to me to see many of my former OTI colleagues recognized for their contributions to the field of computer science and to the industry as a whole. I still believe that OTI was one of the finest software engineering teams ever assembled. The experience of this Eclipse team was legion, with key architects and developers who had worked on systems such as Smalltalk, ENVY/Developer, Convergence, Taligent and VisualAge. This team had worked together successfully for years, and were able to bring all of that experience and wisdom to what became Eclipse.
Eclipse’s contributions to computing are important to recognize. In 1999-2001 when it was built and then released, the notion that you could build a general-purpose tooling platform that was uniformly modular throughout its entire architecture was revolutionary. In many ways, it still is today. The Eclipse plug-in model (later re-hosted on the OSGi standard) has enabled the broadest and most open tooling platform in the world. SWT proved to the world that you could actually build good-looking GUIs in Java in 2001, and compete head-to-head with Visual Studio on the Windows platform.
In terms of its industry impact, it is hard to over-state what Eclipse has accomplished since 2001. First of all, it was an important strategic move by IBM to promote the success of Java by consolidating Java tooling around an open, extensible and professional quality platform – something no other company was willing or capable of doing. Its importance as an endorsement for open source was incredibly valuable. It demonstrated that even large and conservative organizations saw the business value in forging open source platforms and communities. Today IBM includes Eclipse in over 500 shipping products. But Eclipse broke ground in other ways as well. To the best of my knowledge, Eclipse was the first open source project to consciously create an industry consortium and commercial ecosystem around an open source platform. We now take this model for granted, and new organizations such as OpenStack consciously emulate it. But it was ground-breaking at the time, and a key part of the industry-wide success of Eclipse.
With the exception of John Duimovich, none of the original team mentioned in the award are still directly involved in Eclipse. (And even John’s involvement as the Tools PMC leader is limited.) But Eclipse remains successful, vibrant and innovative. It is truly an industry-wide platform that is relied upon in diverse areas such as enterprise development, embedded software development, mobile and modeling. The original visionaries were the pioneers who launched Eclipse in 2001. Today, we have a community of over a thousand committers supported by over a hundred companies moving Eclipse forward, and that is truly a testament to the foundation laid by the team in 2001.