Faint praise?

James Gosling: Oracle have done “surprisingly well” with Java

Lucy Carey

With the fourth anniversary of acquisition of the platform coming up, the Father of Java has a mixed bag of views on its stewards.

January 27th will be the fourth anniversary of
Oracle’s takeover of Sun Microsystems. From the outset, many were
dubious over the suitability of the former-software only company to
handle Java. And, with subsequent allegations of lack of support
for open source and poor handling of legacy issues continuing to
crop up as regularly as NSA scare stories, there’s been no shortage
of critique in the intervening years.

Among these indignant voices, one of the most significant
has been that of  Java founder James Gosling (aka the Father
of Java) – and he’s been at it again this week. Ahead of the
upcoming milestone date,

had Gosling deliver a school teacher style
report of Oracle’s treatment of the software he created to

Following a brief stint at Oracle nemesis Google,
Gosling has carved out a niche for himself as
Chief Software Architect
at Liquid Robotics. He remains an
emphatic supporter of Java, and his
appearances at JavaOne
in recent years indicate a certain
element of reconciliation between himself and his former bosses –
albeit a grudging one – and that’s something something which is
evident in the report.

Gosling’s harshest criticism is aimed at Oracle’s
treatment of Solaris, which he flunks with an F-. Gosling writes
that the Unix operating system is, “Totally dead. The license fees
for Solaris are so high that it’s crazy to think of trying to use
it, and the hardware offerings from Oracle make no sense. I’ve had
to convert all my Solaris systems to Linux. I weep.”

On the flipside, Java fares relatively well in his
opinion, with an optimistic B+, and a note that its new overlords
have done “surprisingly well” with the program, aside from a few
niggles with security, which he charitably appears to dismiss as
“growing pains.”

MySQL is awarded a could-try much harder C, with the
gloomy analysis that, while not completely dead in the water, it’s
“vanishing fast, from the general discourse. Replaced by forks and

Surprisingly, given Oracle’s recent
suspension of the commercial support
pipeline, GlassFish app
server is awarded a relatively high B-. Gosling believes that
though it’s moved forward, more could be done to support the hugely
popular offering.

The company’s treatment of NetBeans IDE also comes
under fire, earning them a second B-. Although this particular IDE
is doing well with developers and, “leading the pack in terms of
covering new APIs, great ratings and adopting,” unfortunately, it
appears to have become woefully neglected.

In Gosling’s opinion, ‘mothership’ Oracle “doesn’t
seem to value of the jewel they have,” and fails to understand the
importance of tools to, “influence the developer community.”

This last point harks back to something which has
apparently bothered Gosling from the outset of Oracle’s stewardship
of Java. Although he has never overtly criticised former Sun
colleagues who chose to stay in their roles, he has spoken out
about the loss of agency among Java decision makers within the
company to influence the direction of the platform.

Once the new  management moved in, Gosling has
been quoted as saying that, suddenly, “he felt the hand of Larry
Ellison in nearly all the decisions affecting Java.”

The sense that Oracle is fundamentally failing to
understand the developers who tool with Java on a daily basis is
palpable. Although the community around Java has continued to grow
exponentially since 2010, this apparent cognitive dissonance
continues to rankle with its founder.

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