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Java Language: Difficult Times for the Most Popular Computer Language

By Dick Weisinger

In January this year, the Java programming language was designated the most popular computer programming language.  It was originally developed by James Gosling at Sun Microsystem and released in 1995, so it has been around for more than twenty years.

Paul Jansen, managing director of software quality services vendor Tiobe, said that “Java is currently number one in the enterprise back-end market and number one in the still-growing mobile application development market (Android). Moreover, Java has become a language that integrates modern language features such as lambda expressions and streams. The future looks bright for Java.”

But not everyone is feeling as upbeat about Java lately, at least the part of it called ‘Java EE’ — Java for the enterprise.  Java has three levels of specifications: ME (Micro Edition for small devices), SE (Standard Edition) and EE (Enterprise Edition).  The SE APIs make up what is considered core capabilities of the Java language, while EE APIs provide extensions that are frequently used when building much larger-scale, enterprise applications.  Java EE is often used for example in building web sites.

With the acquisition of Sun Microsystems in 2009, Oracle took on the role of managing the direction of the Java language.  But recently there have been some questions about how well Oracle is fulfilling that role, especially relative to the Java EE specification.  The Java EE specification covers things like Enterprise Java Beans (EJBs), the Java Servlet, Rest API (JAX-RS), Contexts and Dependency Injection (CDI).  Recently Oracle has been shifting resources away from further Java development and it has been accused of not sufficiently investing in the technology.

For example, James Gosling recently said that Oracle’s guardianship has been “pretty disturbing.  It’s not so much that Oracle is backing off on EE, but that it’s backing off on cooperating with the community. Taking it ‘proprietary’, going for the ‘roach motel’ model of non-standard standards — ‘customers check in, but they don’t check out.'”

A posting by the Java EE Guardians on Change.org questions Oracle, saying “it is very difficult to determine why this neglect from Oracle is occurring or how long it will last. Oracle has not shared it’s motivations even with it’s closest commercial partners let alone the community. A very troubling possibility is that it is being done because Oracle is backing away from an open standards based collaborative development approach and is instead pursuing a highly proprietary, unilateral path.”

Anatole Tresch, Expert Group Member of the Java Community Process,  said that “it‘s difficult for me to imagine a blossoming future for Java EE… The actual status of Java EE 8 is, in my opinion, quite critical, but I hope that the momentum within the community also leads to finding new ways and solutions to still use Java as a strategic component in companies.”

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