Oracle Responds to Guardians Open Letter on Java EE Rebranding

An Oracle representative today responded to the Java EE Guardians' recently posted "Joint Community Open Letter on Java EE Naming and Packaging," stating unequivocally that it will not be allowing the use of its trademarked "Java EE" and "javax" to be used in naming the Java EE 8-based technologies contributed to the Eclipse Foundation late last year. (See this article for more on the letter from the Guardians).

That technology is currently being developed as an Eclipse Top Level Charter project known as Eclipse Enterprise for Java (EE4J).

In a message posted to the EE4J community mailing list, Will Lyons, senior director of Oracle's WebLogic Server Product Management group, clarified his company's position:

The Java EE and javax.* names leverage the Java trademark, and indicate that the source of these technologies is Oracle and community processes managed by Oracle. As a critical identifier of the source of products to our users, we must continue to reserve use of such names using the Java trademark to serving that fundamental source identifying function. This will help us to maintain the Java trademark, which is in Oracle's interest and in the community's interest. We recognize there are likely to be requirements to create new versions of existing Java EE specifications that were already created using the existing JCP process. We believe we can work out an approach to allow use of javax.* names for extensions to these existing specifications in order to accommodate these requirements. However, if we adopt a new process for new EE4J technologies, as is desired by the community, we believe we must require that a new namespace be used for the new EE4J technologies that are developed using that process, and a new brand (other than Java EE) that includes these new technologies. There is a tradeoff here, and we believe that the net benefit of the new process warrants the adoption of a new namespace for new EE4J technologies, and a new brand.

Lyons also noted that Oracle has already said it plans to comply with one of the requests in the Guardians' letter: namely to allow use of existing "javax" packages for existing technologies. "This would allow for compatibility between EE4J releases and existing Java EE releases at the package level," Lyons wrote.

Developer, author (EJB in Action, 2nd Edition, Manning), and organizer of the Connecticut Java Users Group, Ryan Cuprak was one of the first to respond to the Oracle message:

While I applaud the efforts Oracle has been making in donating Java EE to the Eclipse Foundation, the lack of brand continuity going forward I believe is going to hurt the platform. I disagree that Java EE is perceived as being an Oracle technology. From my experience, it [is] perceived as a standard with implementations from Oracle, IBM, Apache, etc. Ultimately, the confusion over Java EE branding I think will hurt the commercial containers (like WebLogic) as Java EE may no longer be viewed as a long-term stable platform with a future.

Transitioning Java EE to new stewards and establishing new processes for the platform is a major undertaking. Rebranding is very risky under the best of circumstances. I hope that this position will be rethought or modified. Maintaining name continuity for at least a couple of years until the new process is up and running would go a long way to ensuring the success of this platform.

I checked in with Reza Rahman, co-founder of the Guardians, for his take on this debate. "Ryan is dead on," he said in an e-mail. "The key underlying issue here is whether Java and Java EE is an open, shared technology for a community or yet another product for Oracle to control. It is obvious from Will's message that it thinks it is clearly the latter."

I touched base earlier with Gartner analyst Anne Thomas, who has been following these developments closely. "From my perspective, a change in name is a good thing," she said in an e-mail. "The Guardians (as well as IBM and Red Hat) want to take control of enterprise Java. The transfer of ownership of enterprise Java to The Eclipse Foundation is good for everyone involved. The EE4J project will be able to create new profiles that are more fitting for modern applications, and they won't be saddled with Java EE baggage. In time, EE4J will create its own brand cachet."

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].