It was in the beginning of last year 2011 when several voices uttered their concern about the future of Java. One of those voices was analyst John R. Rymer. The concerns were related to Oracle, the company that bought out the original creators of Java, Sun Microsystems, in 2010. It was argued that some main business decisions made by Oracle could drastically alter the future of their newly acquired programming technology.
Since 1995, Java has been left open to function as a programmer's playground. The free available Java language allowed for an accessible bottom-up software development process. But ever since Oracle took over the reigns, this process looks to be in danger of being replaced by a much more strict, hierarchial one. With their new approach Oracle managed to centralize control over Java developments, which has been helpful in bringing clarity and direction to the organizational spectrum. However, it simultaneously compromised the creative side of Java, possibly bringing an end to the open source innovation that has characterized it for so long.
This became most apparent when Oracle decided to take Google to court, because it felt that Google had broken copyright laws with some of their recent software for the Android smartphone. The legal battle between the two began shortly after Oracle had taken over Sun Microsystems, and came to an end in the first half of 2012. The verdict fell in Google's favor, stating that the copyright accusations could not be upheld. Since Java is essentially a language, it is virtually impossible to legally "own" it. So, Oracle tried to find a loophole by stating that Google had copied 37 of their API (Application Programming Interface) packages for Android. Judge William Alsup, a man not unfamiliar with the world of IT, concluded however that the Java API's in question could also not be copyrighted.
Oracle has made it clear to appeal the judge's decision, but so far it's Google: 1, Oracle: 0. With attempts like this to monopolize ideas and innovation, Rymer may well have been right in his argument that Java's future will be a narrow one. With everything having to serve Oracle's business interests, really free creative spirits will seek their refuge elsewhere. Oracle allows bottom-up contributions, but keeps an eye on them from above. Thus, the Java language could end up being spoken by fewer and fewer people, becoming much like a digital version of ancient Latin.
Sources used for this article:
- John R. Rhymer: 'The Future of Java' http://blogs.forrester.com/john_r_rymer/11-01-23-the_future_of_java
- L.A. Times: 'Oracle and Google's Fight over Java' http://articles.latimes.com/2012/may/29/opinion/la-ed-google-java-api-copyrights-20120529
- Groklaw: 'Judge Alsup Rules: Oracle's Java API's Are Not Copyrightable'http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20120531173633275