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Java EE: What's in a Name?

The news that the Java Platform Enterprise Edition (Java EE) would be moving to the Eclipse Foundation broke about two weeks before this year's JavaOne conference, and the event, held last week in San Francisco, was buzzing with the news. The community appears to be mostly happy about this development, and hopes are high that, finally, enterprise Java will get the attention it deserves.

But there's a detail in this deal that's rubbing a lot of Java jocks the wrong way: Java EE under Eclipse might not be called "Java." Oracle wants to restrict the use of the word in naming the platform, and also the use of "javax" for the standard package of extensions, because of branding intellectual property (IP) concerns.

Oracle is re-licensing Oracle-led Java EE technologies and related GlassFish technologies to the Eclipse Foundation, including reference implementations, technology compatibility kits (TCKs,) and associated project documentation. But the company also has said that it plans to "rebrand" the platform with a new name, yet to be determined.

The working name for the draft top-level project charter for Eclipse Enterprise Java is "EE4J." That acronym elicited such "passionate feedback" from the enterprise Java community, that the Eclipse Foundation's executive director, Mike Milinkovich, published a long blog post to clarify the issue.

"I think that many people are assuming that EE4J will become the brand that replaces Java EE," he wrote. "Wrong. Java EE is a certification mark. To label something as 'Java EE,' you need to get a license from Oracle and pass the TCKs. There are many implementations of Java EE, such as WebLogic, WebSphere, JBoss, and Glassfish. EE4J is the name of the top-level project at the Eclipse Foundation. As such it is the umbrella under which the source code and TCKs for Glassfish, EclipseLink, and (hopefully) Eclipse MicroProfile will exist."

Why does this matter so much?

"The fundamental issue here is this: by moving Java EE to Eclipse, Oracle is, to some degree, forcing a distance between Java EE and the Java Platform," said Reza Rahman, a former enterprise Java evangelist at Oracle and one of the founders of the Java EE Guardians. "But Java EE has been an intrinsic part of the platform from the very beginning. All the namespaces and APIs start with the 'java" or 'javax' prefix." People contribute and adopt it because they believe in and trust the Java brand."

Branding may seem like a trivial thing, Rahman told me, but it matters—not enough to stall the process of moving Java EE to the Eclipse Foundation, but enough to organize some feedback on the issue and send it to Oracle, which the Guardians have done via an email form. Rahman says that more than 500 people signed on and sent their opinions to Oracle, the Eclipse Foundation, IBM, and Red Hat.

The site is still generating feedback from the community, and Rahman strongly urges anyone interested in this issue to add their voice to the conversation.

The Guardians have tread lightly on this issue so far, but are poised to adopt the position, officially, for retaining "Java" in the Foundation version of Java EE.

"We want to clarify that collectively we value the EE4J initiative, and we don't want it to stall, but we really do want to retain 'Java," Rahman said. "We want to remain part of the community."

If Oracle won't budge on the issue, Rahman added, enterprise Java will survive, as have other platforms, such as OSGi, which has never been part of the Java Community Process, but has a respected position in the Java space.

"We are months away from even starting to define the specification process that will be used in the future," Milinkovich wrote in his blog post. "However, when we do, I expect that this new process will create a new certification mark which can be properly considered the new 'Java EE' name. We will be engaging with the community in the selection of that name."

Posted by John K. Waters on October 10, 2017