Is Java losing its mojo? One might think so, after hearing that the Guardian in the UK is switching away from it to make some important site improvements. Meanwhile, Google still thinks Java is important, to judge from its newest hire.
The move hardly means that Java is decreasing in importance online, however. In fact, Google's latest move may indicate just the opposite. The search engine giant just hired none other than James Gosling, the inventor of Java. Gosling left Oracle last year. For those coming late to the story, Oracle bought Sun, Gosling's employer, back in 2009. Gosling quit because of unhappiness with Oracle's micromanagement of his work and the tremendous pay cut he was forced to take to continue working there.
Perhaps one of the more interesting wrinkles to Google hiring Gosling is that Oracle had sued Google last fall, charging the search engine with using copyrighted Java code in Android. Even with the inventor of Java working at Google, Oracle's suit will likely continue to move forward. So what does Google gain from hiring the programmer?
For openers, it gains “a position of thought leadership and mindshare” among the Java community, according to Paul Krill at Info World. And obviously, it gains an engineer with some very strong experience with programming language design – an obvious asset as Google goes forward with Android. Gosling's skills may also come into play to help develop programming languages to handle the challenge of analyzing the massive data sets Google engineers must deal with, simply as part of the job of keeping the search engine running.
One challenge that both Google and Gosling will face going forward is that their approaches to Java differ significantly. Gosling once noted that “Everything I care about is in the JVM,” but Google rarely takes the stock JVM approach. Its Google App Engine, for example, has earned criticism from developers because it does not support the full Java specification.
So how will Google and Gosling handle these differences? It's difficult to say, especially since Gosling hasn't received his first assignment. So what will he do? By his own account, “I expect it'll be a bit of everything, seasoned with a large dose of grumpy curmudgeon.” In any case, he'll hardly be the only major language designer on the Google campus; Guido van Rossum, the creator of Python, also works there. What kind of interesting cross-pollination might take place is anyone's guess, but with little likelihood of micromanagement in Gosling's future, the future of Java – and Google – looks very good indeed.