July 15, 2024


Digitally first class

So why did they decide to call it Java?


When Time journal known as Java one particular of the 10 finest items of 1995, a new American marketing legend was born. Who’s to say whether or not Sunshine Microsystems’ prized technological innovation would have fared so very well if its title had remained Oak or Greentalk, two of the previously options.

We all know the story: Give away an tasteful, open up supply programming ecosystem and the environment will defeat a route to your doorway. No sweat, no issue what you decide to call it. The people today billed with developing a model identification for Sun’s programming language for up coming-era software developers, nevertheless, determined on a espresso metaphor for their trademark. Oak, the earlier name, was taken. But why they chose Java by their possess accounts, was something of a mystery.

This team job interview, originally printed by JavaWorld in 1996, offers a interesting glance back on how Java got its title. 

How Java grew to become Java

“The lawyers experienced instructed us that we couldn’t use the name ‘OAK’,” said Frank Yellin, then a senior engineer at Sunlight. That name was by now trademarked by Oak Technologies.

So, a brainstorming session was held to come up with suggestions for a new name. The session was attended by all users of what was then termed the Reside Oak team, all those of us actively doing the job on the new language. The finish final result was that about 10 feasible names have been decided on. They were being then submitted to the authorized department. A few of them arrived again clear: Java, DNA, and Silk. No one particular remembers who very first came up with the identify “Java.” Only one particular individual, to the finest of my understanding, has at any time instructed in community to currently being the creator of the name.

Kim Polese, who was the Oak item manager at the time, remembers issues in different ways. “I named Java,” she mentioned:

I spent a lot of time and power on naming Java simply because I needed to get specifically the right name. I wanted some thing that mirrored the essence of the know-how: dynamic, innovative, lively, entertaining. Simply because this programming language was so one of a kind, I was decided to stay away from nerdy names. I also failed to want anything with ‘net’ or ‘web’ in it, simply because I find these names quite forgettable. I wished a little something that was amazing, exceptional, and effortless to spell and enjoyment to say.

“I gathered the team with each other in a area, wrote up on the whiteboard phrases like ‘dynamic,’ ‘alive,’ ‘jolt,’ ‘impact,’ ‘revolutionary,’ et cetera, and led the group in brainstorming,” Polese claimed. “The title Java emerged through that session. Other names involved DNA, Silk, Ruby, and WRL, for WebRunner Language—yuck!

Sami Shaio, then a Sunshine engineer, recalls the brainstorming conference, held sometime around January of 1995. “It really is basically challenging to say where by ‘Java’ 1st came from, but it ended up on the listing of candidates we selected … together with Silk, Lyric, Pepper, NetProse, Neon, and a host of others too uncomfortable to mention.”

“Some other candidates have been WebDancer and WebSpinner,” mentioned Chris Warth, who was an engineer on the venture from its inception.

Even though promoting needed a identify that implied an association with the internet or the web, I imagine we did incredibly well to select a title that wasn’t linked with both a single. Java is probably to locate a correct household in apps considerably from the web, so it truly is ideal that it wasn’t pigeonholed early.

James Gosling, Java’s creator, remembers that the identify originated in a conference exactly where “about a dozen folks bought with each other to brainstorm.”

The conference, arranged by Kim Polese, was essentially constant wild craziness. Lots of people today just yelled out text. Who yelled out what initial is unknowable and unimportant. It felt like 50 percent of the words and phrases in the dictionary were being yelled out at one particular time or another. There was a great deal of: “I like this due to the fact…” and “I never like that because…” And in the conclude, we whittled it down to a listing of about a dozen names and handed it off to the lawyers.

“We had been really disgusted and weary from all the marathon hacking we’d been doing at the time, and we even now hadn’t observed a identify that we could use,” mentioned Timothy Lindholm, an engineer on the undertaking:

We ended up pressed for time, as adopting a new name meant a lot of do the job, and we had releases coming up. So we established up a assembly to thrash out a checklist of names … I do not don’t forget there currently being a specific winner of Java … Among the the people today of the authentic group that I’ve talked to about this, most deny any memory of Java being anything at all but one thing that bubbled out of the team dynamic.

“I consider the name was 1st prompt by Chris Warth,” stated Arthur van Hoff, then a senior engineer:

We experienced been in the conference for several hours and, while he was ingesting a cup of Peet’s Java, he picked “Java” as an illustration of nevertheless another identify that would in no way perform. The initial response was mixed. I imagine the remaining candidates were Silk, DNA, and Java, nonetheless. I advised Lingua Java, but that didn’t make it … We could not trademark the other names, so Java finished up getting the identify of preference. In the stop, our advertising and marketing individual, Kim Polese, ultimately made the decision to go forward with it.

How they landed on coffee

“I check-marketed the names at get-togethers, and on my mates and loved ones users,” Polese recalled. “And Java obtained the most constructive reactions of all the candidates.”

Because it wasn’t certain that we would get any of the names cleared by way of trademark, I picked about three or 4 and worked with the attorneys on clearing them. Java handed, and it was my preferred, so I named the language Java and subsequently named the browser HotJava, a much far better name than WebRunner. The engineers had a tough time parting with Oak, but they lastly bought applied to it … I felt that branding was incredibly essential since I preferred Java to be a normal. So I targeted on developing a pretty solid model for Java.

Yellin recalled a final meeting to vote on the name:

Just about every man or woman received to rank Java, DNA, and Silk in purchase of their choice. The exact identify that got the most “most-preferred” votes also received the most “the very least-beloved” votes. So it was dropped. And of the remaining two, Java got the most votes. So it became the most well-liked name.

“It came down to Silk or Java, and Java gained out,” Shaio remembered:

James Gosling seemed to favor Java in excess of Silk. Kim Polese had the final say more than the name, since she was the product or service supervisor. But most selections back again then were being accomplished by everybody variety of agreeing, and then anyone would just say, “Ok, this is what we are accomplishing.”

Eric Schmidt, then Sun’s chief technologies officer, stated he was certain about the origin of the title:

We fulfilled in early 1995 at 100 Hamilton in a single of our standard working testimonials for very little companies like Oak. Bert Sutherland was the senior manager at the time—he worked for me—and he and Kim and a several others including James [Gosling] ended up there. Kim offered that: 1, we had to decide on a new title now, and two, Oak—which we were all used to—was taken. As I recall, she proposed two names, Java and Silk. Of the two, she strongly preferred Java and represented that the [Live Oak] workforce was in arrangement. Bert and I determined to approve her suggestion, and the selection was designed. For those explanations, I think it is accurate to give Kim the credit for the title. She offered it and offered it, and then created it occur in marketing.

But, “I do seem to remember that Kim was at first lukewarm on the identify ‘Java,'” recalled Chris Warth.

At the time we had been also seeking to rename our browser from WebRunner—which experienced been by now taken by Taligent—to something that was not previously trademarked. Kim needed points like WebSpinner or even WebDancer, one thing that would make it very clear that this was a Earth Wide Website solution. The trademark search was done, and following various weeks a quick record of cleared names came back … There appeared to be an infinite sequence of meetings and approvals that have been necessary—as if the name have been basically significant.

“Kim wished us to keep up the launch so we could locate a much better identify than Java, but she was overruled by the engineers, primarily James and Arthur [van Hoff] and myself,” Warth explained.

At one issue James stated we were being likely to go with Java and HotJava, and Kim despatched some email inquiring us to hold out for other names that could distinct. James wrote back and stated “no,” we were going with what we experienced. And we just did a very rapid set of renames in the resource code and place the launch out … In the end, I imagine the marketeers and vice presidents experienced significantly less to say about the identify than the engineers who were being dying to get a little something out the door.

“I consider Kim is rewriting background a bit when she indicates that she picked this name for some savvy advertising and marketing explanation,” Warth additional. “We finished up with this identify for the reason that we ran out of choices and we required to get our merchandise out. The marketing justifications arrived later.”

Sleepless in Palo Alto

“I really don’t declare to be the a single who initially instructed the identify,” said Warth when questioned about van Hoff’s statement. “It absolutely was Peet’s Java we have been consuming, but it might have been me or James or someone else. I just never recall specifically who mentioned it.”

“The sensation amongst myself and James and the other engineers was that we could get in touch with it ‘xyzzy’ and it would still be common,” Warth extra. “In the end it will not issue who at first instructed the name, due to the fact it ultimately was a group decision— potentially assisted along by a handful of caffeinated men and women.”

Timothy Lindholm, the engineer, concluded:

I consider that the extent to which the persons concerned have deemed the record of Java’s name with no arriving at any typically agreed-on resolution shows that the naming of Java was not finished by some heroic particular person, but was a by-merchandise of a inventive and pushed team striving incredibly challenging to realize their ambitions, of which this identify was a component.” I would persuade you not to attempt outside of what is fair in ascribing the naming of Java to an individual. That is only not the way things worked in individuals times. Will not be fooled by how individuals and the media have subsequently filtered quite a few features of Java’s creation to healthy their personal finishes.

Unique job interview and tale by Kieron Murphy for JavaWorld, 1996. Updated for InfoWorld, 2022.

This story, “So why did they make a decision to contact it Java?” was originally published by


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