Innovation troubles

Oracle’s “planned obsolescence” for Java

Coman Hamilton
java end of innovation
Dead end image via Shutterstock

Oracle is no longer interested in Java, according to an anonymous top-level Java source at Oracle. As rumours of Oracle’s neglect pile up, it looks more and more like IT’s most popular programming language is becoming a driverless train.

If Oracle were a Facebook user, it would now be updating its relationship status with Java to “it’s complicated”.

September’s news that Oracle has begun dismissing its Java evangelists has raised questions about the company’s dedication to the Java platform. Now, a former Java official has anonymously opened up about Oracle’s nonchalance about the lack of Java innovation.

In email titled “Java — planned obsolescence”, the source told InfoWorld that “Java has no interest to [Oracle] anymore”. Meanwhile Oracle is increasingly positioning itself around cloud computing (a technology once embarrassingly labelled as “complete gibberish” by Larry Ellison).

The source alleges that Oracle is cutting back on Java EE, but that it does not want to allow other companies to help out on the Java platform. Proprietary product work will be done using the Java app server WebLogic, and there will also be a proprietary microservices platform. The email also dashes any hopes of Oracle collaborating on a ‘Java foundation’ with other companies, let alone ever relinquishing its ‘ownership’ of the Java platform.

It’s clear that Oracle cannot contain the spread of negative rumours around Java since the recent layoffs, with the internal source stepping up just as contracts of Oracle’s Java evangelists begin to run out.

Java’s stagnating innovation

Although the community has enjoyed some excitement around new features arriving in next year’s Java 9 release, there are dark clouds looming over Java ahead of this year’s JavaOne conference.

It’s been commented many times before that Oracle has struggled to do anything for Java but simply inherit what was undoubtedly Sun’s biggest achievement and give Java a bad name for the rest of the world with sneaky Ask toolbar adware. Since the takeover, JVM releases have frequently been pushed back, along with numerous features – the latest being Java’s planned JSON API, dropped from next year’s release. In fact, Java modularity – now Java 9’s headline feature – was initially meant to appear in Java 7, meaning a whopping eight years from proposal to release.

As JAXenter previously reported, Oracle has been increasingly focussing attention on its late Cloud successes, while its stock has dropped 20% in the last three months up to October.

It’s possible that Oracle sees few other ways to make money with Java than by suing Google, who many might argue have boosted the Java community with is arguably one of the biggest Java-based innovations in years – Android. In the words of InfoWorld’s source: Oracle “has a winner-take-all mentality and they are not interested in collaborating”.

On Reddit, the community has responded to news of Oracle’s cutbacks by discussing how long Android will keep Java alive until the language becomes more legacy than innovation. Even without evangelists or real dedication from Oracle, Java now still holds pole position in programming language charts. But comparisons to ill-fated technologies like COBOL and Fortran have already begun.

Coman Hamilton
Coman was Editor of at S&S Media Group. He has a master's degree in cultural studies and has written and edited content for numerous news, tech and culture websites and magazines, as well as several ad agencies.

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