Once upon a time, NetBeans was a significant open-source Java integrated development environment (IDE). Oracle, which has been backing away from Java, took another move towards dropping Java as a priority by dropping support for NetBeans.
NetBeans has a long history dating back to 1995. It was acquired by Sun in 2000. Oracle picked up NetBeans as part of its 2010 deal for Sun.
Since then, Oracle has been shedding Sun's software programs. Larry Ellison, Sun's ruler no matter his title, dropped OpenSolaris immediately. In 2013, Oracle sunsetted most of Sun's virtualization technologies. The most relevant of Oracle's past moves away from Sun's software to the NetBeans situation is how Sun abandoned OpenOffice. Now, OpenOffice is on its deathbed.
Another significant issue is that Oracle no longer makes Java a priority. The much delayed core Java Enterprise Edition (JEE) 8 may finally launch in 2017. Java creator James Gosling has said, "It's not so much that Oracle is backing off on EE, but that it's backing off on cooperating with the [Java] community. Taking it 'proprietary', going for the 'roach motel' model of non-standard standards -- 'customers check in, but they don't check out.'"
Now, with NetBeans, Oracle has proposed that the Apache Software Foundation take over the project. In the proposal, Oracle claims that NetBeans still has 1.5 million developers. I don't believe those numbers.
As Janel Garvin, CEO of Evans Data, a company that tracks what languages and tools developers use in the real world, told me, "Eclipse shot past NetBeans years ago in usage. We stopped asking about NetBeans a few years back because no one cared about it anymore."
That's no real surprise.
True, NetBeans has its die-hard supporters. Zoran Sevarac, a member of the NetBeans Dream Team, for example, likes the proposed deal. "It's a great thing, and it means that NetBeans has an exciting future. The NetBeans community is very positive about this step and sees this as a logical (and good) way to proceed."
Gosling, in a Facebook post, agreed. "NetBeans is moving to Apache! Oracle has decided to open up NetBeans even more, so that folks like me can more easily contribute to our favorite IDE. The finest IDE in existence will be getting even better, faster!"
It's a nice thought, but the community is small and getting smaller still. Still, unlike OpenOffice, NetBeans does has significant programmers who want to improve it, so perhaps NetBeans may yet reinvent itself. I'm just not betting on it.