Amazon’s Announcement About Corretto and Java’s Future

Ever since Oracle got their hands on Java (by way of acquiring Sun Microsystems), it has worked hard on making money of it. As far as I can tell, it has been as unsuccessful at this as the prior owner, Sun. Compared to Sun, Oracle upped the ante by way of suing Google over Dalvik, making it harder to get JDK certification, etc. The main lever Oracle has is the ownership of the Java trademark.

Like many I assumed that Java is dying a slow death now, eventually to be replaced by the next successful initiative. Scala, Go, and others are attempts at that, though (not yet) successful ones.

Now, with the recent announcement of general availability of Corretto, Amazon is trying to change the game. Corretto is Oracle’s OpenJDK, with some Amazon branding, and the promise of long-term support. I can’t help but notice much of the verbiage around it is confusing to me, and so is the legal situation.

For one, Amazon is talking about making Corretto availabe to customers (not users) at no cost (rather than as open source). A closer look at Corretto, which can be downloaded publicly, shows nevertheless that it is Oracle’s OpenJDK and open source software as such, provided under the GPLv2 or later license. No cost should then be a given. Also, it is unusual that the source code is not readily available, which implies you have to take up Amazon on the GPLv2’s written offer to receive the source code.

I also wonder how, legally speaking, Amazon can do what it is doing. Java is still a trademark owned by Oracle. To be allowed to use the term Java on a JDK implementation, this implementation has to pass various technical test suites owned by Oracle, and as far as I know, receiving certification and being allowed to use the term Java costs money. For this, Amazon is putting itself at Oracle’s mercy, and longer term, will be paying dearly or will be passing it on to users in some form or another. All of this is to say, that I still see no golden times ahead for Java, even though I’d love to hear I’m wrong.

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