Net Beans By Mariano Fernandez


NetBeans started as a student project in the Czech Republic (originally called Xelfi), in 1996. The goal was to write a Delphi-like Java IDE in Java. Xelfi was the first Java IDE (Integrated Development Environment) written in Java, with its first pre-releases in 1997.

Xelfi was a fun project to work on - especially since the space of IDEs written in Java was uncharted territory at that time. The project attracted enough interest that these students, having graduated, decided they could make a go of it as a commercial product - and, begging and borrowing web space from friends and relatives, they formed a company around it. And almost all of them are still involved in NetBeans, and can be found on the NetBeans mailing lists today.

Shortly thereafter, they were contacted by Roman Stanek, an entrepreneur who had already been involved in several startups in the Czech Republic. He was looking for a good idea to invest in, and found Xelfi right in his back yard. They met and hit it off, and a business was born.

The original plan for the business was to develop network-enabled JavaBeans components. Jarda Tulach, who designed the IDE's basic architecture, came up with the name NetBeans to describe what they would do. The IDE would be the way to deliver them - and that's where the name NetBeans comes from. When the spec for Enterprise Java Beans came out, it made more sense to work with the standard for such components than to compete with it - but the name stuck.

In the spring of 1999, NetBeans DeveloperX2 was released, supporting Swing. The performance improvements that came in JDK 1.3, released in the fall of 1999, made NetBeans a really viable choice for development tools. By the summer of 1999, the team was hard at work rearchitecting DeveloperX2 into the more modular NetBeans that forms the basis of NetBeans today.

Something else was afoot in the summer of 1999 - Sun Microsystems wanted better Java development tools, and had become interested in NetBeans. It was a dream come true - NetBeans would become the flagship tool set of the maker of Java itself. In the fall of 1999, with the next generation of NetBeans Developer in beta, the deal was struck.

Sun had acquired another tools company, Forté, at the same time, and decided to rename NetBeans to Forté for Java. So the name NetBeans disappeared from view for a while.

There had always been a lot of interest in open source at NetBeans - the developers were young and had been involved in open source projects for most of their programming careers. So this was an idea that was mentioned quite a bit as NetBeans was being acquired by Sun.

Less than six months later, the decision was made that NetBeans would be open sourced. While Sun had contributed considerable amounts of code to open source projects over the years, this was Sun's first sponsored open source project - where Sun would be paying for the site and handling the infrastructure. And the very first decision made was that the only thing it made sense to call it was So in June of 2000, the initial web site was launched.
The Platform
Along the way, an interesting thing happened: People started building applications using NetBeans core runtime and their own plug-ins - applications that were not development tools at all. In fact, this turned out to have quite a market. In 2000 and 2001, a lot of work went into stripping out any pieces that made the assumption that an application built on NetBeans was an IDE, so that the platform would be absolutely a generic desktop application suitable to any purpose. This work turned out to be healthy for the codebase of the IDE as well, encouraging separation of concerns and clean API design.
NetBeans Today

An open source project is not a thing so much as a process - or a living, breathing entity. It took time to find the right balances - is always an ongoing process as new people join the community and make their own unique contributions to it. The first year or so (through NetBeans 3.2) was collectively finding our feet; the next couple of years were learning what worked in terms of open source processes - in the very first year or two, the development process was so open that there was more debate than implementation happening.

But if anything we were backing up to get a running start - with NetBeans 3.5, we made huge strides in performance, and put in place tests and processes so regressions can't happen. With 3.6, we reimplemented the windowing system and property sheet, and cleaned up the user interface tremendously. NetBeans 4.0 was a sea-change in the way the IDE works, with a new projects system, which revamped not only the user experience, but made it possible to replace many pieces of infrastructure that had been holding NetBeans back. The 4.1 release built on the new projects infrastructure in 4.0, and added more features and full J2EE support. NetBeans IDE 5.0 introduced comprehensive support fordeveloping IDE modules and rich client applications based onthe NetBeans platform, the new intuitive GUI builderMatisse, new and redesigned CVS support, Sun ApplicationServer 8.2, Weblogic9 and JBoss 4 support.

Today, we couldn't be prouder of where the NetBeans project and community are. There are more people using NetBeans than ever before, the community is thriving and NetBeans is improving and growing in ways we never imagined.


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