Jakarta: The Community Reacts to a New Brand with an Old Pedigree

Technology rebranding is a tricky business, but not a new phenomenon in the enterprise Java space. Remember the market disorientation caused by Sun Microsystems' decision in 2006 to rebrand J2EE as Java EE? Now, under the aegis of the Eclipse Foundation, the technology formerly known as Java Enterprise Edition (and Project EE4J) is Jakarta EE. Given the community's reaction, which I would describe as positive but with lingering disappointments, this one is probably going to stick.

"I like the Jakarta EE name," said Kito Mann in an email. "For us older Java guys, the name 'Jakarta' pretty much means 'open source Java,' since it was the umbrella name for Apache's first set of Java projects. And I like the fact that it still boils down to 'JEE.'

Mann is Principal Consultant at Virtua, Inc. As an "older Java guy" he edits JSFCentral.com and co-hosts the Enterprise Java Newscast. He is also a founding member of the Java EE Guardians.

"That being said," Mann added, "I think it's unfortunate that Oracle won't allow use of the Java name, because it makes the project seem somewhat less official, even if that's not really the case. It's quite possible that rebranding was a good thing given the early history of EJBs, but I don't think Jakarta EE is enough of a rebranding to make much of a difference. I'm more disturbed by the refusal to allow new Jakarta EE APIs to use the javax package name; I think this is just going to make things more confusing for developers."

Software architect and consultant Reza Rahman, a former enterprise Java evangelist at Oracle and one of the Guardians' most outspoken founders, agrees.

"There's no doubt the loss of the Java brand is disappointing to many in the community," he told me. "It is essentially a missed opportunity to open up a large part of the Java platform in every sense. That said, the community has done everything that it constructively can, and now it is time to move forward. Jakarta EE is a good choice. It abbreviates neatly to JEE, and the name Jakarta has a deep heritage in open source Java as well as Sun Microsystems. The name has been very warmly received by the community and that is a great sign."

The Guardians are in the midst of an internal debate over how they will align themselves with a rebranded enterprise Java, a potential name change for their own organization, and maybe a new logo. That debate continues as of this writing.

Martijn Verburg, CEO of jClarity, co-organizer of the London JUG, and a member of the Java Community Process (JCP) Executive Committee, is very happy with enterprise Java's new moniker.

"I personally love the new name," he said in an email. "Jakarta was always a Java related brand name that people had great respect for and having (somewhat tongue in cheek) folks still talking about 'JEE' brings the continuity to the table, which was much needed."

I also heard from Heather VanCura, chair of the Java Community Process (JCP).

"I do like the new name," she said. "It has a unique combination of Java community history, contributions, and collaborations; yet, it also has the promise of opportunity in the future for the Java community to move forward.

We discussed 'Moving Java EE to the Eclipse Foundation and Updates' in the January JCP EC Meeting while this naming discussion was in progress. Based on the updates we discussed, it seems the Working Group is being fair and effective in the process. I think the community is on a path to making Jakarta EE successful."

Kevin Sutter, enterprise Java architect at IBM and project lead on Eclipse MicroProfile, is a member of the Eclipse Project Management Committee (PMC), which oversaw the Java EE renaming process. The first set of names the PMC had to work with was overwhelming, Sutter told me in an email. The committee voted several times and whittled that list down to a few member favorites. Surprisingly, Jakarta just barely made the final cut, he said. Enterprise Profile was the highest vote getter among PMC members, though Jakarta won the popular community vote by a significant margin.

Sutter was not thrilled with Jakarta initially, but now that it's in place, he likes the new name.

"The history of the Apache Jakarta project adds to the significance of the name, a special tie to Java without using the word 'Java,'" he said. "And, the ability to use JEE as the abbreviated form is ironic, especially when the Java EE leadership fought so hard to shut down the usage of JEE. It will be very easy to relate Jakarta EE back to its roots with Java EE. I really don't think we could have come up with a better name."

Michael Remijan, senior Java EE developer and system architect at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, and a thoughtful enterprise Java watcher, wrote a detailed blog post about the new name and the future of Jakarta EE that's well worth reading. Among Reminjan's observations is this:

Jakarta EE needs to evolve into a standard for an enterprise framework vs. an enterprise server. Spring, Hibernate, and other open source project can continue to push innovation forward. Organizations that want to take the risk and use those bleeding-edge technologies can do so. Once proven, their innovations can be incorporated into the Jakarta EE standard framework for the rest of us. Jakarta EE developers can use the new features added to the framework as quickly as their next product release by a simple POM <version> update…no need to install a new server. As an added bonus, if Jakarta EE sticks to TCK requirements and backward compatibility, Jakarta EE developers will have the confidence things won't break when they change that often feared <version> number.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of Converge360.com 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].