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Google has led many useful Java features (guava, gson); now that Oracle has purchased Sun, will it affect its future enhancements and utilization as a development language?

What exactly, or even approximately, are the legal ramifications? I thought Java was open source and would therefore remain unaffected ... ?

Should Google just buy Oracle to get rid of the whole mess, that would be cool wouldn't it ?

Do you think this is the beginning of the end for Java as a widely used language ? Its continued success as an open source/free technology is now doubtful?


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Hehe, Google buying Oracle... that would be a larf! – Dean Harding Oct 21 '10 at 22:55
Oracle's DB is no better than the open-source Cassandra. The only reason for Google to buy Oracle is to take Java back and to fire a bunch of jerks. That would be an expensive practical joke, however. – Job Dec 30 '10 at 3:38
I'm sure not everyone at Oracle is a jerk. Just the execs. – Shawn D. Sep 2 '11 at 13:54

9 Answers 9

up vote 35 down vote accepted

Is Java "dead in the water"

Absolutely not. Far too many companies and people have invested in building Java software for Java to be dead in the water.

What exactly, or even approximately, are the legal ramifications?

On the face of it, there are two significant things alleged by Oracle's lawsuit:

  • The copyright violations are difficult to get a handle on, because it is not clear what Oracle is alleging has been copied.

  • The patent violations are more tangible, but it is unclear if the patents would stand a challenge based on prior art, inventiveness, etc, or whether the SCOTUS ruling in Bilski undermines them.

The legal outcome is unclear at this stage, and the consequences are unpredictable. Maybe Google and Oracle will settle the lawsuit, some money will change hands, patents will be cross-licensed, and we're back to business as usual. Or maybe it will go to court ...

I thought Java was open source and would therefore remain unaffected ... ?

All Sun Java sources that have been released under GPL will remain open sourced. Java 6 and 7 cannot be un-GPL'ed. Hypothetically, Oracle could change their mind about future releases, but I predict that it won't happen. A couple of days ago Oracle announced they remained committed to Java being open source, and that they were going to open source JavaFX. An about-face for Oracle on this issue now would be a publicity nightmare.

(Incidentally, the Google / Oracle spat is about Java on mobile devices; i.e. JavaME. The JavaME codebase has NOT been open sourced.)

Should Google just buy Oracle to get rid of the whole mess, that would be cool wouldn't it ?

Could they? Probably not. Oracle is probably too big for Google to buy.

Should they? Probably not. But that would be a business decision, not a decision based on "coolness" ... or doing the Java community a favour.

Would it actually be a favour for the Java community? I'm not sure. I'm not convinced that Java would survive the rampant moving-target-ism that seems to be rife in the Android world under Google's stewardship. However, this may just be "a teenage phase" that Android is going through.

Do you think this is the beginning of the end for Java as a widely used language ? Its continued success as an open source/free technology is now doubtful?

Unclear. Probably not. Java still has lots to offer, and the Google / Oracle debate (and even Java's open source-ness) is not relevant to most developers and businesses that use Java.

I'm inclined to the view that it is Oracle's ongoing level of investment in Java that will determine Java's long term future. And their ability to hang onto key Java engineers ... given the change in corporate culture. If Oracle fumble this, there is a chance that Java will fragment, and that the long-term future will be in some non-Oracle dialect of Java. (Maybe something coming out of Google or maybe something else.)

+1 for a good thorough answer – Gary Rowe Nov 10 '10 at 10:29
-1 for just plain wrong with "Absolutely not. Far too many companies and people have invested in building Java software for Java to be dead in the water." Just because there are companies invested in Java doesn't mean it's thriving. Java's as dead as dead fish in the dead water. No innovation, what's so ever to the Java language road map. – Sleeper Smith Jun 10 '11 at 4:23
@Sleeper - thankyou for your contribution. – Stephen C Jun 14 '11 at 4:59

Java will stay around, but I think these issues will lead Java down a road away from Open Source. It will start to be more closed like C# and the .NET languages with how Oracle is suing Google even though it is "open source" (for now). And Google created Go, which with this issue over Java may lead them to eventually recreate/modify Android to use Go as well as, or in place of Java.

What is it about C# that is closed? There is an ECMA standard for it, and two open-source cross-platform compiler implementations (Mono and DotGnu) are available. – Robert Harvey Sep 22 '10 at 16:00
The clr license is proprietary – NimChimpsky Sep 22 '10 at 16:04
I probably should have phrased my answer better, it has open source software and platforms, but the clr is not open source, like NimChimpsky said. – sange Sep 22 '10 at 16:11
Microsoft incentives other implementations. Oracle doesn't. – bigown Sep 22 '10 at 16:35
Google Go is intented for system programming, and not GUI-development as on Android, so I don't think it will be used by Google as the default programming language on Android. – Jonas Sep 22 '10 at 17:27

Companies keep suing each other, there are 100's of examples for that. This doesn't really mean end of the road all the time.

Definitely true. Afterall, wasn't C# somewhat caused by Microsoft and Suns little scuffle that lead from Visual J++ -> J# -> C# and yet both C# and Java seem to be doing quite well as languages. – D.Shawley Sep 22 '10 at 19:02
exactly; in reality the opposite is true, suing just indicates that there is a fair bit at stake and companies are re-defining the existing boundaries of their IP. – Anonymous Type Sep 26 '10 at 22:52

Back to the Future

Back many moons ago, Microsoft was heavily investing in Java via J++. While many different motivations were ascribed to what was going on, the fact was that a lot of time & talent & resources were being invested in improving the Java environment and making it run really well on Windows.

Then Sun sued Microsoft and won a billion dollar settlement. This made it obvious that it was in Microsoft's best fiscal interest to compete with, rather than cooperate with, Java. C# was born very soon after.

Jump forward a decade. It's now in Google's best fiscal interest to compete with, rather than cooperate with, Java. I suspect that smart people inside Google will figure this out and make a very similar decision to the one Microsoft did.

Except that Microsoft wasn't trying to create a Java environment, but rather a Java-like environment that wouldn't be compatible with other Javas. This technique is commonly known as "embrace, extend, extinguish", and Microsoft has used it on other things. Had Microsoft simply made Java run well on MS Windows, Sun would not have had desire or standing to sue. – David Thornley Oct 20 '10 at 14:20

Oracle, as an application developer, has a big incentive to keep JEE at the top of the pile. They use Java in their database. Their toolset (eg JDeveloper, SQL Developer...) are all java based.

I don't think Java is at any risk, except of abandonment by Open Source zealots who can't stand a commercial company that makes a profit out of selling software.

I wouldn't say that Open Source zealots can't stand commercial companies making money off software. OSI has always been about practicality for businesses, so this fits. Even in the FSF, RMS himself sold copies of Emacs (although it was also available for free, of course, I forget how it worked). – alternative Sep 23 '10 at 10:39
Java is a very nice solution to the "single GUI program on multiple platforms" and Oracle by nature supports plenty of platforms. – user1249 Oct 20 '10 at 6:13

Java is still open source. The problem is J2ME, the mobile edition.

You'll note the numerous lawsuits about Linux, the Linux Kernel, SCO, etc, etc, etc... haven't really hurt Linux at all, have they?

yeah if anything they just opened up the market for companies to distribute and sell linux+support to enterprise. – Anonymous Type Sep 26 '10 at 22:54

Programming languages evolve.

I think that Google will evolve Java under a different name together with Dalvik as the VM. And Oracle will probably evolve Java in a different direction. Or Google could start to use Python or another languages more, and as the default language on Android.

I don't think Google will use Go on Android since Go is meant to be a new "system programming language" for e.g. web servers.

UPDATE: Apple deprecates Java

This means that the Apple-produced runtime will not be maintained at the same level, and may be removed from future versions of Mac OS X.

If Java wasn't already dead on the client side, I don't think it will be better now. Swing is pretty outdated as GUI framework and I don't think that Oracle will change that. So for now I only see Java as an alternative on the server-side.

I understand the Apple Mac OS X code is being folded into OpenJDK. I think that makes Java on the Mac stronger than ever. – Tom Hawtin - tackline Dec 7 '10 at 1:43
Java on the client far from dead. – Lawrence Dol Dec 11 '10 at 2:06

Does any language ever actually disappear? I wish some would, but that's another matter.

The problem with corporate ownership of any software base is they start acting like the world is their cash cow, making changes, roping everybody into upgrades, and making it impossible to stay with older versions that work just fine. To me, that's the primary value of GNU - they don't do that.

It's been possible to stick with Java 1.4 for eight years now. Sun was good at that, and Oracle's followed suit. – Dean J Sep 27 '10 at 17:19
@Dean J: That's good. I'm thinking of how IBM used to trap people with EBCDIC and special-format punch cards, while DEC had simple ASCII-stream IO, very simple, that didn't trap anybody. Then DEC got big, and they started trying to lock people in with fancy terminals with special codes. Then I think of Microsoft, and the series of compilers, databases, etc. they try to trap people into. If Sun & Oracle are resisting the temptation to corner a revenue stream, great. I'm sure they've got marketing staff asking "Why are we doing this?" – Mike Dunlavey Sep 27 '10 at 17:34
I gotta say, I've never felt all that trapped by Microsoft. Open Office, Project Mono, and things like that help. On the flipside, on the things you are locked in on... Apple's no better, and often worse, than Microsoft. – Dean J Sep 27 '10 at 18:35
@Dean J: Well, my examples are DAO, Fortran, and C/C++. We built a product, using a 3rd-party grid control, based on DAO, and the programmers move on. Whattayaknow - MS tries to rip it out from under us. Fortran (not that I like it): try to stick with one compiler - you can't, you gotta keep buying new ones, 'cause the old ones don't work with customers' new machines. Same for C and C++. But what if I don't WANNA do .net? What if I LIKE VC? Too ****ing bad, soldier. – Mike Dunlavey Sep 27 '10 at 20:04

Java isn't going away. Oracle was using Java as a language for stored database procedures shortly after it came out, and last I hung around Oracle people there were indications that Oracle would really like to drop its proprietary PL/SQL in favor of Java. Oracle will continue to develop Java, although not necessarily in the same directions Sun would have.

While Oracle is not friendly to Open Source (openSolaris as run by Sun is apparently dead), they'll likely keep the open portions open (and they can't withdraw an OS license issued by Sun).

The Google suit is largely because what Google's doing isn't straight Java, but rather is compiled to another VM that apparently works better for Google's purposes, but is close enough to what Java does to trigger lawsuits. It will doubtless get resolved, probably with Oracle getting something from Google.


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