Gosling: Oracle could still live up to 2007 Java pledge

Oracle had called for a 'vendor-neutral' body to oversee Java, but that was before it bought Sun Microsystems

There is still a way for Oracle to calm down people concerned about the fate of the Java programming language under the vendor's stewardship, according to James Gosling, known as the "father" of Java.

"Lightning might strike and they might live up to their 2007 commitment to create an independent Java foundation," Gosling said in a blog post Tuesday. "I'm not holding my breath, but if enough customers rose up in revolt, it could actually happen. But it would require Oracle customers to do this, since the only thing that Oracle pays attention to is money, and that's what customers hand over to Oracle."

Oracle gained control of Java through its acquisition of Sun Microsystems. Gosling, who remained with Oracle only briefly after the deal closed, was referring to a proposal Oracle made in December 2007 as a member of the Java Community Process, the group formed by Sun that governs the language's development.

Oracle's resolution asked that the JCP "become an open independent vendor-neutral Standards Organization where all members participate on a level playing field."

An Oracle spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on whether the company plans to pursue the 2007 proposal.

Oracle's recent move to sue Google over alleged Java patent violations in the Android mobile OS has churned up debate over Oracle's intentions for the language.

Some insights into its plans should become clear next month at the JavaOne conference.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and top development executive Thomas Kurian are scheduled to discuss "Oracle's vision for strengthened investment and innovation in Java and describe how Java will continue to grow as the most powerful, scalable, secure, and open platform for the global developer community," according to an official description of their planned talk.

But Forrester Research analyst John Rymer believes there is "zero possibility" Oracle will pursue the scenario raised by Gosling.

"Circumstances have changed. At that time, Oracle was on the outside, looking in," Rymer said via e-mail. "Now, Oracle owns Java, and has little interest in sharing control over it. Bottom line: Oracle will continue Sun's 'first among equals' policy in managing Java and not place the technology into a de jure standards body."

Gosling himself expressed much the same view in a blog post earlier this month.

"This resolution in 2007 was all part of a control game played by Oracle, no high-minded principles involved at all. Now that they have a different point of view, it's clear that this resolution being honored is about as likely as pigs growing wings," he wrote.

That said, "Java is likely to be in pretty safe shape," Gosling added at the time "It's a key piece of technology in too many of Oracle's businesses, so screwing Java up too badly would hurt them more than almost anyone else."

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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Tags business issuesopen sourceapplication developmentLanguages and standardsintellectual propertySun MicrosystemsCivil lawsuitslegaljavasoftwareOracle

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Chris Kanaracus

IDG News Service
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