Key Milestones Over 10 Years of Eclipse

As we get ready to celebrate 10 years of Eclipse, I thought it would be interesting to look back on the major milestones in the Eclipse community, ie. what were the major events that have helped shape and drive the Eclipse community.   Here is my list but please feel free to add your own in the comments.  We have also created a slide show of these milestones available at the end of the post.

1. IBM’s initial contribution of Eclipse under an open source license.   What started it all was IBM’s bold and forward-thinking decision to open source Eclipse.   They basically made the decision to give away a $40 million investment.   In many ways, IBM has been one of the leading companies implementing open source strategies.  Their Eclipse decision is proof of a strategy well implemented.

2. Eclipse Consortium Announced.   IBM didn’t just dump a bunch of code into a cvs repository.  An important part of the strategy was to create an ecosystem of industry partners.   They announced the Eclipse Consortium on Nov. 29, 2001.  Borland, Merant, Rational Software (at the time an independant ISV), Red hat, Suse and Togethersoft were listed as members of the consortium.

3. The first EclipseCon in 2004.  I wasn’t at the first EclipseCon and I hear the Disney theme hotel was not the greatest but I do think EclipseCon is an important annual event for the Eclipse community.   We are a large distributed and diverse community that collaborates mainly online.   It is always amazing how much easier online collaboration can become if you have had a beer with the other people.  EclipseCon is the community’s chance to have a beer and build relationships.

4. Eclipse Foundation Created.   In 2004, IBM, with the help of many partners in the Eclipse community, created the Eclipse Foundation, an independent, vendor neutral steward of the Eclipse community.  To IBM’s credit they realized their ultimate control over Eclipse governance was an issue for growth and more importantly the control didn’t really bring a lot of benefit to IBM.   I would add that some companies still don’t understand the fact that you get influence in open source projects by participation, not control.  IBM understood this in 2004.

5. Eclipse Take Off in 2004.   For many people, Eclipse is/was a Java IDE.   When Eclipse was first released there were 4-5 popular Java IDEs: Borland JBuilder, Sun NetBeans, Oracle Jdeveloper, JetBrains IntelliJ and IBM VisualAge for Java (replaced by Eclipse and IBM WASAD).  In 2004-2005, Eclipse adoption took off and by the end of 2005 Eclipse has achieved around 65% market share.  The dominance of Eclipse in the Java IDE market helped propel the growth of the Eclipse ecosystems.  Even today, there are thousands of products and plugins built for Eclipse and on top of Eclipse.

6. Release of Eclipse 3.0.  The release of Eclipse 3.0 in 2004 was a huge release for Eclipse.   I know there was a ton of stuff in the release but I think two things really shaped our community going forward: 1) Eclipse became a universal platform for building rich client applications.  RCP has been a huge success with a wide variety of non-developer related applications built on-top of it.   2) Eclipse adopted OSGi as the standard for our plugins.  Implementing an industry standard has help propel the growth of different technologies, from different providers, all working on a common runtime.

7. Seven New Strategic Members for the Eclipse Foundation.  In 2005, 7 companies joined the Eclipse Foundation as strategic members.  BEA, Borland, CA, Nokia, Sybase, Wind River and Iona all joined as strategic members.   Each of these companies brought committers, code, dollars for the Foundation and legitimacy for the Eclipse platform.    Some of these companies were strong competitors to IBM, so it was also an endorsement that the Eclipse Foundation was now vendor-neutral.

8.  Creation of Eclipse Modeling Top-level Project.  In 2006, Eclipse Modeling Framework (EMF) and a number of other modeling related projects were building very successful communities.   However, they didn’t have a natural home, so the Eclipse Modeling Top-level project was created and as they say the rest is history.   The Eclipse modeling community is one of the most diverse, productive, innovative and passionate at Eclipse.  I have lost track of the number of modeling projects hosted at Eclipse but I do know the excitement and innovation keeps building.  If you are doing modeling in software development, chances are you are using Eclipse technology.

9. Callisto, the first release train.  In 2006, a number of committers and project leaders got together and agreed to coordinate their project schedules so that they would release on the same time and the same day as the Eclipse platform.   They also told the entire community and world their plans, months in advanced.  I confess, at the time I thought it was impossible and could lead to potentially disastrous result. Obviously I was wrong and today the Eclipse release train is expected and a great example of professional, predictable open source development.

10. EclipseRT Top-level project created.  The success of the rich client platform and the advancement of Equinox and OSGi led to a series of innovations in runtime technology being built on-top of Equinox.   Therefore, the EclipseRT top-level project was created to be the home for projects, such as Jetty, EclipseLink, RAP, Gemini, ECF, Virgo, Riena and more.  Eclipse has a long tradition in tools but now runtimes as just as important.

Those are my 10 key milestones for the last 10 years.   Projects such as CDT, Mylyn, BIRT, WTP and others have all been very successful and important for our community growth.  I also know a LOT of other things have happened over those 10 years, so please feel free to add comments for your you think have been key events.

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