IntelliJ and a very interesting interpretation of open-source

July 11th, 2007

I’m reading the very thorough overview of the “IDE shootout” that took place a few days ago (thanks, Kirk, for summing it up for all those who couldn’t be there), and the following is simply unbelievable:

The next question Aizatsky addressed was why IntelliJ isn’t open source. “Open source is all about the opportunity to contribute back to the project,” said Aizatsky. “But honestly, how many people have ever produced a custom build of Eclipse? I think no one, no one here (at least).”

That is a very interesting definition of open-source. A pity that it’s as far from the reality as the marketing would like you to believe. There’s so many things wrong with it that i don’t even know where to begin.

By taking the literal meaning, “open source” means that the source to your product is open to the general public. You can put restrictive terms of what can be done with that source (think GPL, read-only or even “open and you’re tainted forever” license), but the code is open. Which means that if i want to see how it works, i can. Now, this doesn’t mean that i necessarily want to change it, recompile and redistribute it. Maybe i want to see how it works because i want to learn from the best. Maybe i want to see how it works just to take this one method and use it in my project (if i follow the licensing terms). Maybe i’m stuck with my plugin and i want to see how it works from the inside instead of browsing other plugins and hope that somebody was smart enough to figure it out.

And no, the Early Access Program is not a replacement for opening the read-only repository to the public (or even publishing a tarball). Early Access Program is a cheap and easy way to get a lot of bugs found out before your paying users start complaining about a new version that is unstable. And forums – tried that and didn’t get any answer (that was back in 2005 and things may have changed, but i never bothered coming back when my original requests for help were largely ignored). Give me the source code and i’ll figure it out on my own (hopefully). I did it with NetBeans, i should be able to do it with IntelliJ. But don’t **** me about people not wanting to contribute back to the main trunk being the main reason for not open-sourcing it.