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Most Significant Java News of 2008?

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Over on java.net the latest poll asks what was the most significant Java development of the past year.

The above items focus strongly on the default view on the world of Java. But, how about the alternative views? For example, this year saw the first edition of SpringOne, which surely implies an alternative/competition/something to JavaOne? Similarly, especially when combined with the aforementioned, the integration of Grails/Groovy into SpringSource can also be seen as a very big deal. Perhaps the poll above focuses very heavily on technologies and not on the companies behind them. That's one supplemental angle—the further footholds gained by alternative worldviews, not purely from a technology perspective, but also from the perspective of companies behind them.

On the technology front itself, though, I would point to a further moving away from XML, in favor of annotations, as a continuing dominant trend in the Java world. This trend has been apparent for a while and seems to not be waning in any way. Any framework coming out in the coming period that demands that the developer configures XML files is going to have a hard time justifying itself. Spring seems to be moving away from XML, as is the case with EJB 3.1, to name but two, while the most popular web frameworks of the past years (especially Grails and Wicket) have had none at all from the get go. A similar development is taking place in the NetBeans APIs, where lead architect Jaroslav Tulach recently announced 2009 as "the year of annotations".

Perhaps another important development is an apparent tendency in the open source community to begin reevaluating its direction. To take SpringSource again as an example, there was a brief flurry some months ago whereby new avenues of monetization were explored and then rejected. The current economic downturn and announcement of layoffs by Sun Microsystems could be interpreted to point in a similar direction—that of questionable returns (either directly or indirectly) from open source and a gentle return to traditional means of gaining a return on investment.

A similar development relates to a move towards "the Cloud". That's another new phenomenon arising over the past year. The jury still seems to be out in terms of what that term means, exactly. Also, what returns stand to be gained from it seems to be unclear. But one can see a repositioning in relation to that concept. JavaFX and similar technologies (Griffon, as well, for example), in aiming to provide a deployment package that meets "all the screens in your life" (not just the web and the desktop, and not just also the mobile screen, but also the TV screen) seems to be geared in a similar vein—one that is broad and attempts to be all-encompassing. The new term "RIA" (Rich Internet Applications) is also something around which technologies are coalescing. At this point, when coming up with a new framework, no longer is it considered enough to be able to cater to one specific deployment environment. And existing frameworks, and technologies in general, are being repositioned to meet these broader demands.

What do you think? What are the most significant trends of 2008 and how should those trends be interpreted?

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