Oracle and Java - the animosity continues

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Oracle attempt to re-engage with the Java Community

Oracle has had a fair amount of criticism when it comes to the wider Java ecosystem and efforts have been made in an attempt to re-engage. In the past we have seen some high profile departures from the Apache Software Foundation as a result of certain decisions that Oracle have made. So what are they doing to win back the Java community support?

They have announced clear plans towards Java 8 and 9 and have put their first foot forward in order to fix their relationship with the Java User Group and Java champions. reported that the attempt to build bridges has already begun, with influential people from Oracle attending various events and meeting throughout the world, as new JUGs have been springing up rapidly in the last few days. There has also been a significant growth in the OpenJDK project and a hard push to reform the Java Community Process. It all sounds great so far….

Chairman Patrick Curran is in charge of improving the transparency and agility of the Java Community Process. JSR 348 is the first in a series of reforms which will inflict important changes in regards to how the Expert Groups conduct their business in public by using as the main infrastructure. This will also apply to the Executive Committee but they will still have private sessions, suggesting that complete transparency isn’t yet fully realised.

Curran, however, doesn’t see this as a huge issue and told InfoQ:

I think this is an option that the EC should retain, but that is should be exercised very rarely. The last time we went into private session was in September 2010, when we discussed announcements that we planned for JavaOne.

JSR 348 requires that communication will be improved, requiring at least one public meeting per JSR as well as full documentation of said meeting. Failure to do so invokes penalties, and this seems like a good way to increase participation with JSR-decision making. The Java Community Process released a 2.8 document that puts a time-out on JSRs to make sure that process moves at the set time-frame or it will face being shut down, the 348 is the first series to introduce this.

This new pro-active side of Oracle towards the JCP is refreshing and they have also announced that there will be an additional two JSRs. This would involve combining the two JCP Executive Committees (SE/EE and ME) under one banner, which seems slightly illogical given Oracle’s drive to meld SE and EE together. A further JSR would look into the disputes between IP and licensing rights.

At JavaOne, Oracle stated that there were five new candidates for the open vote to the Executive Committee this year; Cloudbees, Central Ohio Java Users Group, Twitter, Terracotta and Azul. This is encouraging from a Java User Groups perspective, giving more voices to the ecosystem, as well as bringing some of the elite companies that drive innovation.

Last year it was stated that plans for Java 7 Standard Edition would incorporate Project Jigsaw, bringing modular capabilities to Java. There was much dispute in regards to the potential conflict with the OSGI system which was already in place. Despite this there has still been a fair amount of contributors to the OpenJDK project. What is surprising is that the OpenJDK Community TCK License Agreement (OCTLA) for Java 7 was released many months after the original Java 7 was released. This made it extremely difficult for external contributors to work on the platform.

Over the last few weeks we have seen the continuous battle between Oracle and Google. The decision that Oracle made to sue Google over its use of Java patents for Android has been under much speculation. It has caused a lot of animosity within Google as well as with Java developers, who need to be relevant in the world of mobile. InfoQ reported that Java ME is becoming irrelevant in the space and certain companies like Nokia have started to shift away to a different development language as they felt disenchanted with Oracle’s legal pursuit of Android.

InfoQ then goes on further to say:

In the context of Oracle’s dispute with Google over Android, there is a fairly widely held belief that Oracle does not allow people to use OpenJDK for embedded and mobile devices, wanting instead to collect licensing revenue from OEMs. Whilst Sun (and presumably therefore now Oracle) did have a field of use restriction for commercial licenses to third parties, and indeed it was to a large extent how Java development was paid for, there is no such limitation in the OpenJDK code license. In other words, all Google would need to do would be to ship a version of Android based on OpenJDK, and keep it under a GPLv2 license.

This could possibly put an end to this dispute, but would Google do it? IBM was in similar position and the situation was resolved, however Oracle has not commented on this when they were approached on the matter by InfoQ.

Are Oracle’s latest efforts to reform and revitalise the issues within the Java ecosystem? Java could not afford to lose their hold on Android but the reforms to JCP are encouraging, as are the recent progressing in OpenJDK. 

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