Eclipse IDE celebrates its 20th birthday: Happy Birthday!

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On November 7, 2001, IBM released the source code for the Eclipse IDE. The development environment was originally aimed at Java projects, and it was inspired by IBM’s commercial IDE Visual Age for Java, which, like the rest of the Visual Age family, was programmed in Smalltalk. The Eclipse IDE, on the other hand, has been written in Java since its inception and was originally aimed almost exclusively at Java development. In the meantime, however, it is also used for projects in other programming languages ​​because of its expandability.

In the early days, Eclipse – before the founding of the associated foundation, the name was synonymous with the IDE – had a major impact on the development environment market. Tools like JBuilder or OptimalJ disappeared in the early noughties, and Eclipse quickly took the lead in competition with tools like JDeveloper and NetBeans.

as heise Developer In 2011, when the Eclipse IDE celebrated its tenth birthday, it had reached its zenith. At the time, only the IntelliJ IDEA, which was also launched in 2001, could hold a candle to it. In the meantime, however, the JetBrains development environment has left the Eclipse IDE behind in numerous surveys and surveys.

In the current Report on Snyk’s JVM ecosystem, based on a survey in which, according to the authors of the report, a good 2,000 Java developers took part, IntelliJ IDEA has a good 71.6 percent user share, while the Eclipse IDE has 24.6 percent. With Visual Studio Code, another serious challenger has now established itself, which in the report is only slightly behind Eclipse with 23.2 percent – mind you for Java. Twenty years ago hardly anyone could have dreamed that a Microsoft tool could become a serious challenger to Eclipse in Java development.

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In the report by Snyk, the Eclipse IDE is clearly behind IntelliJ IDEA and just ahead of Visual Studio Code in terms of Java development environments.

(Image: Snyk)

One of the great strengths of the Eclipse IDE is the modular structure, which on the one hand offers many expansion options and on the other hand, thanks to the modular structure, avoids overloading with too many functions in the basic configuration. The fact that Eclipse had the reputation of a monster at the beginning was probably mainly due to the fact that the installation in the right composition was not really trivial.

Images from the early days of the Eclipse IDE.

(Bild: Eclipse Foundation)

The year 2004 marked two major development steps for Eclipse: on the organizational side, the establishment of the Eclipse Foundation, with which the IDE became an open source project under the umbrella of the foundation. In addition, with version 3.0 released in June 2004, the IDE switched to the OSGi framework Equinox.

Eclipse plug-ins have since been implemented as OSGi bundles, making the development environment one of the first enterprise applications beyond the OSGi specification, which was originally aimed at the embedded environment and describes a modular system and a service platform for Java. The OSGi substructure in Eclipse has significantly shaped the further development of the specification. The associated OSGi Alliance, whose name initially stood for Open Services Gateway Initiative, has been part of the Eclipse Foundation since October 2020.

From version 3.0 until 2018, fresh releases appeared annually in June under code names that were based on Jupiter’s moons and space probes in the early years. In the fall of 2018, the team switched to a quarterly release cycle, and the names simply correspond to the respective quarter. The current Eclipse 2021-09 came out in September. The actual version number continues to run in parallel, with versions 3.8 and 4.2 appearing in parallel in June 2012 under the code name Juno. The current September release bears the version number 4.21 under the hood.

The Eclipse Foundation, which moved its legal home to Europe at the beginning of the year, is in charge meanwhile numerous projects beyond the development environment, including Jakarta, the enterprise variant of Java formerly known as Java EE and the Java runtime Adoptium. For many sub-projects like the Internet of Things are Working groups under the umbrella of the Foundation responsible. The Eclipse IDE Working Group has been taking care of the further development of the birthday child since June of this year.

The original code donation from IBM is said to have been worth around 40 million US dollars, including the marketing carried out for it. The Eclipse Foundation shows a few more numbers about the IDE in a short video clip for the anniversary. Accordingly, it comes to a total of 40 million users and 45 million installations of plug-ins. The IDE consists of 67 projects and is coming according to the Foundation on a total of 66 million lines of code.

Even if the Eclipse IDE has not been the top dog among Java development environments for a long time, it has had a loyal and stable user base for years. heise Developer Congratulations on your twentieth birthday and looking forward to more news about the IDE, initially until the silver anniversary in five years.


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