That was the year that was

Java in 2013: A year in review

Elliot Bentley

Is the past year best forgotten for Oracle? We take a look at the highs and lows of the Javasphere over the past 12 months.

Well 2013 went by fast
didn’t it? And it’s certainly brought its fair share of ups and
downs for the world of Java. This time last year, we were
anticipating the imminent arrival of Java 8. But early on in 2013,
it became clear that development was lagging way behind schedule,
and now twelve months on, we find ourselves experiencing deja

If there’s an overall theme to this year, it’s the demonstration
of the power that the Java developer community wields. The LJC were
voted back onto the JCP Executive Committee for the second year
running, and public outcry helped save Vert.x from IP hell. Even
Oracle felt the heat under the pressure of a 17,000-strong

With countless vocal, creative, and dedicated users around the
world supporting the platform, we’re excited to see what 2014 has
in store.


The year began with a controversy that almost sunk one of the
JVM’s most exciting new prospects, Vert.x. When creator Tim Fox
moved to Red Hat, his ex-employer VMware allegedly claimed
ownership of its IP – leading Fox to write a
public message on the mailing list
. Thankfully, the entire
debacle was solved within a fortnight, with Vert.x placed in the
trusty hands of
the Eclipse Foundation

Also that month: “GitHub of packages” Bintray
opened its doors
, and chip manufacturer Qualcomm’s announcement
of a
Java-powered ‘Internet of Everything’
was overshadowed by a
truly insane CES keynote.


The Ask Toolbar, bundled with Java’s Windows installer, has
never been popular, but it was in February that the community
banded together to sign
a petition against the practice
. Almost a year later, it stands
at 17,000 signatures, and has resulted in (almost) zero change to
the installer’s sneaky tactics.

As Java SE 6
finally passed
its Oracle-designated extended end-of-life date,
it was down to Red Hat to
pick up the reins of OJDK 6
. And looking to the future, Java 8

began to slip
worryingly behind schedule as Project Lambda
proved more time-consuming than previously anticipated.


Alongside the
of its epic (and still
rumbling on
) legal battle with Oracle, the year hasn’t been too
kind to Google’s Android team. In March, the mobile OS’s founder
Andy Rubin
stepped down
(and later in the year, Android open source lead
Jean-Baptiste Quéru resigned
in a huff

It wasn’t all negative, though. The developers of popular open
source application server Jetty
released version 9
with support for both WebSockets and SPDY,
while Red Hat rather generously made
commercial builds of JBoss AS freely available


The year’s high-profile applet vulnerabilities, until now merely
embarrassing, had a real effect on regular Java users in April.
Patching the security issues had “inevitably taken engineers away
from working on Java 8”, explained Mark Reinhold, and as a result

Java 8 was delayed once again
. The next version of Java is now
planned to arrive on 3 March 2014.

Meanwhile, after months of indecision, Red Hat finally
the crowdsourced new name for JBoss AS: WildFly.


In a big boost to JetBrains, Google
unveiled Android Studio
, an IDE based on JetBrains’ commercial
editor IntelliJ IDEA with additional new features like live
previews and integration with Google services. However, it was a
big blow for Eclipse, which used to come bundled with the Android
SDK and continues to suffer from a public perception of being slow
and ugly.

One positive bit of news came out of the previous month’s Java 8
delay: Statically-linked JNI libraries were
to be included
at the last minute thanks to the shifted
deadlines. These could be the magic ingredient necessary to finally
get a full JVM on iOS.


One of the big stories of 2013 has been the rise of MariaDB, a
drop-in fork of MySQL led by the creator of MySQL itself. Google
moving some
of their MySQL databases to MariaDB, and in June,
Red Hat floated the idea of
shipping MariaDB as the default database
in their Linux
distribution (which finally
appears to be coming true

Speaking of data – Yahoo
open-sourced Storm-YARN
, which integrates Hadoop and real-time
data processing engine Storm.


Perhaps everyone was on holiday throughout July, as very little
of note took place. Vert.x, having struggled through January’s
disputes, made
it to version 2.0
; a Docker-powered Heroku clone
got crowdfunded
; and Rod Johnson controversially
told the Scala community
that it needed to evolve.


For NoSQL database MongoDB, August was a watershed month. In
DB-Engine’s rankings – calculated by a combination of activity on
Google and job advert sites – it
overtook Microsoft Access
, and parent company 10gen
rebranded itself
as MongoDB, Inc.

After years of development (and having been pushed back from
Java 7 to 8 to 9), Project Jigsaw – the drive for modularisation in
Java – was
, with a simplified “take two” hoped to provide an
“opportunity to question earlier design decisions and generally
clean things up”.


The theme of this year’s JavaOne conference was of Java
returning to its lightweight hardware roots, with
Internet of Things hype
swelling to fever pitch. The only real
surprise from Oracle was the
, a DIY tablet running JavaFX.

However, the startups in attendance had exciting news of their
own: TomEE creator David Blevins
unveiled Tomitribe
, his new OSS-centric startup, and Hazelcast
scored a coup with the
addition of Rod Johnson
to its board.


This month was all about the looming
threat of cloud consolidation
. Microsoft made a
serious step forward
by integrating Windows Azure into its
volume licensing scheme and Windows Server line, as well as
launching a section of Azure aimed specifically at the US
government. This was, of course, blown out the water by
AWS’ first billion-dollar quarter

Oracle proved their commitment to making client-side Java more
secure with a
blockbuster software update
plugging 51 vulnerabilities – but
it clearly wasn’t enough for Firefox developers, who
made Java click-to-play


The Java developer community was left shocked as Oracle
pulled commercial support for GlassFish
, reducing it to – in
the words of Markus Eisele – a “toy product”. Oracle evangelists
quick to defend the decision
, but Arun Gupta (who, until
move to Red Hat
, had been a major evangelist of GlassFish) said
that JBoss “definitely emerges as the leader in this space”.

Elsewhere, two major new languages reached maturity – Google’s
JavaScript killer
and Red Hat’s alternative JVM language
– officially christened as version 1.0.


As the industry wound down for the year, December was relatively
quiet. It was a good time to reflect on the success of Google’s
other (and frankly far more successful) language, Go. Version
was the victory lap after twelve months of frothing blog
posts and growing mainstream interest, as well as occasional
real-world use.

As for the future: Come back tomorrow to hear some of the
industry’s brightest minds’ thoughts on what 2014 will bring.

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