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James Gosling on Oracle, Once Again

James Gosling sounds off on Oracle's culture and handling of Java, clarifies some past comments, and addresses his "low expectations."

· Java Zone

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A recent Java Council podcast moderated by Java Champion and Virtual JUG leader Simon Maple brought together a collection of familiar and high-profile Java community members that included Trisha Gee (Java Champion, JUG leader), Martijn Verburg (Java Champion, London JUG), Reza Rahman (Java EE Guardians, Philadelphia JUG), and the "Father of Java" James Gosling. Rahman and Gosling were given most of the hour, where Rahman's questions centered around the continuing efforts of the Java EE Guardians and Gosling was asked several thoughts about Oracle.

Listening to Gosling speak about Java is both fascinating and at least somewhat sad, as Gosling's concern for the fate of his legacy seems palpable through his word choice and delivery. This obviously wasn't the first time that Gosling has been asked to publicly share his thoughts on the state of Java and Oracle, but in this case, he did take the opportunity to clarify some past comments in order to clear up the depth of his disappointments. 

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Gosling's comments ranged from sweeping corporate culture differences to his thoughts on individual projects and products. 

Here are some quotes from Gosling that stood out.

On Oracle's Motivations 

 "Oracle is a pretty transparent company in terms of motivation... They're motivated entirely by their numbers. You can predict them just based on their spreadsheets...They're a very spreadsheet-driven crowd. But the way that they interpret the numbers that go into the spreadsheet are kind of suspect for me...So, like at Sun we had this general philosophy...the fantasy that every company wants is a large fraction of a large market. Everybody wanted to be Microsoft and own the desktop OS market. But in reality there's only two real choices. You either get a large part of a small market or a small part of a large market. That latter one was always where Sun went. Anything that we could do to make the overall market larger would make our slice of it larger. We never had any illusions that we could dominate the whole market. The Oracle folks never ever subscribed to that philosophy at all. The sort of math around the benefit of growing the overall market never worked for them."

On Oracle and the JCP

"They've always had this attitude that they're not in the business of helping their competitors. And they've clearly viewed that a lot of the sort of JCP activities are effectively helping their competitors. And they've been really, really good about the core JDK. But you step one nanometer outside of the core JDK and they sort of revert to form."

On Fears Around Oracle's Acquisition of Sun

"Oh yeah, it was a really big concern and I spent a lot of time trying to explain to Oracle folks how Sun had succeeded. At the end of days for Sun, our software business was really successful. It was really quite amazing how well we were doing. Mostly to the folks at Oracle it just didn't make any sense. They just didn't understand it. It was like we were speaking a completely different language. I had numerous dust-ups with them over things like user groups. They have a very peculiar approach to user groups. I managed to get them somewhat turned around on some of the user group issues. They have a cultural mindset and I managed to make almost no dent at all in it... I was an Oracle employee for six weeks. It was just like, nuts."

On Getting Sun to Invest in Java EE

"They have their app server, and everything is about making their app server as successful as possible. One (inaudible) spent on helping other app servers doesn't make any sense to them."

On Grading Oracle as a Java Steward (With Reference to His Prior B+ Grade)

"I guess I want to break the grade out. So for just the JDK I guess I'd put them more at like a B-. The core parts of the JDK they've been doing really a pretty nice job. The work that they did with lambdas and getting that all out, and QA'ing the JDK, and the work that is going on for JDK 9...it looks pretty sweet. But their complete turnaround on JavaFX from heavily supporting it and they were doing a really good job of it. There are some of us who don't use the web for everything. There are apps that work really well as web apps but there are a lot of apps that don't work really well as web apps. They basically put a bullet to our heads. Swing kind of needed to be sort of put in sustaining. And JavaFX, they are sort of keeping JavaFX alive but they're not really bringing it forward the way they could. I'm depending on it pretty heavily, and I have to look over my shoulders and say 'what should I do?'. I've got some apps that we do that have to be desktop apps. Should I just convert over to Swift? That would just grind me the wrong way. But as soon as you get out of the JDK, they are struggling to get a D on Java EE, and then at best a D. A bunch of the other stuff that I've cared about like what they've done with some of the identity management software, I sort of go back and forth on that and either give them an F quadruple minus or an A, because in that case the OpenAM OpenDJ OpenIDM suite of things that Sun had open sourced have acquired a second life among the open source community and are doing fabulously well. And they're mostly doing fabulously well because Oracle tried to knife them. And they did the same sort of thing with Hudson. Their behavior around Hudson was just like deplorable. But then Hudson now has a second life as Jenkins and it's doing fabulously well. So that's done nicely. One that I feel really upset about is the way that they've been treating NetBeans. NetBeans is by a wide margin my favorite IDE and Oracle just does not get it. They are just the most clueless company when it comes to stuff like development environments."

On Oracle's 'Fitness' to Be Java's Stewards

"They are fit in the sense of 'they could do it'. They have all the abilities that it takes. And it's not about fitness in the sense of ability but commitment in the sense of desire and does it make sense to them. I keep going back to the open letter that Oracle got a bunch of the members of the JCP to sign saying something like 'it's the sense of the JCP that Java would be better served as part of a foundation'. Sun didn't go for that mostly because it was just a game that Oracle was playing. Their heart wasn't really in it. These days it's like, 'You know Oracle, that's what you said then, why don't you stick by your words?' And of course now they try to deny it, except of course the Internet has an excellent memory so it's very easy to find that document. One can argue about whether or not they're fit, but the problem is they bought the rights."

"I never expected them to be anything other than hostile. When I've said on several occasions that I'm happy with Oracle's stewardship, it doesn't mean that they've done like a really, really wonderful job. It more reflects on the fact that my expectations were really low."

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james gosling,java ee,oracle

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