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Many of you reading this have already seen the Apache Software Foundation’s press release about Tomcat 7.0.0 — it was voted beta quality on June 25th, and the Tomcat 7 web pages went live on the Tomcat project web site this morning. It looks wonderful! Congratulations to the Tomcat development team on a year and a half of Tomcat 7 development! This first beta release of the Tomcat 7 branch is a major step forward in that it implements the Java Servlet 3.0 API, which is not an incremental revision of the last version. It is a major feature revision that modernizes the Servlet API in a number of ways, and adds quite a few new features that webapp developers will use and enjoy.

What does it mean to say that version 7.0.0 beta is out? It seems like a strange thing to say, especially since Tomcat is open source — it was always “out”, since the ASF subversion repository is publicly open. So what’s different about the Tomcat 7 code today versus yesterday? The code for Tomcat 7.0.0 beta has been tagged for a while, and has even been available as downloadable binaries since the middle of this month. The main difference is: the Tomcat 7 web pages are now live, and the announcements about Tomcat 7 have been sent out. Tomcat 7 is still under active development, and will be for quite some time to come. The first stable release of Tomcat 7 is not available yet, but because the Tomcat 7 announcements point to the beta build, this new major branch of Tomcat will likely be tested more before a build of Tomcat 7 is voted stable.

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Due to the way Tomcat’s version numbers are assigned, it has always been the case that the first released versions of a new major branch are not voted stable. For example, the Tomcat 6.0 branch wasn’t voted stable until the tenth release of Tomcat 6, version 6.0.10. For Tomcat 5.0 it took sixteen alpha and beta releases before the developers were satisfied enough to call it stable, version 5.0.16. For an interesting historical comparison, here is a list of the first stable release versions for each major branch of Tomcat, and their release dates:

Tomcat Major VersionFirst Stable Release VersionRelease Date 16, 1999 10, 2002 6, 2002 6, 2003 10, 2004 22, 2007

The 3.x versions of Apache Tomcat dates back to the last millennium, and that first 3.0.0 version of Tomcat was the initial open source release, so the release process was very different for the 3.x branch. But, as you can see, there have been few major releases of Tomcat over the ten and a half years that Tomcat has been open source.. and the next one is just around the corner now!