So why did they decide to call it Java?


When Time journal known as Java one of the 10 most effective items of 1995, a new American promoting legend was born. Who’s to say no matter if Sunshine Microsystems’ prized technological know-how would have fared so well if its name had remained Oak or Greentalk, two of the before choices.

We all know the story: Give away an exquisite, open source programming natural environment and the world will defeat a path to your door. No sweat, no subject what you make a decision to call it. The persons billed with creating a brand identity for Sun’s programming language for following-era application developers, however, decided on a espresso metaphor for their trademark. Oak, the previous name, was taken. But why they selected Java by their individual accounts, was one thing of a mystery.

This team job interview, at first published by JavaWorld in 1996, offers a intriguing appear again on how Java acquired its identify. 

How Java grew to become Java

“The attorneys experienced explained to us that we couldn’t use the title ‘OAK’,” said Frank Yellin, then a senior engineer at Sunshine. That title was already trademarked by Oak Systems.

So, a brainstorming session was held to come up with suggestions for a new identify. The session was attended by all members of what was then termed the Stay Oak team, individuals of us actively doing work on the new language. The end final result was that about 10 doable names were selected. They were then submitted to the legal section. A few of them came back again cleanse: Java, DNA, and Silk. No one remembers who 1st came up with the identify “Java.” Only a person particular person, to the ideal of my information, has ever instructed in community to becoming the creator of the title.

Kim Polese, who was the Oak product or service supervisor at the time, remembers points differently. “I named Java,” she said:

I spent a good deal of time and electrical power on naming Java simply because I desired to get precisely the appropriate identify. I desired one thing that mirrored the essence of the technologies: dynamic, innovative, lively, fun. Due to the fact this programming language was so one of a kind, I was identified to prevent nerdy names. I also did not want nearly anything with ‘net’ or ‘web’ in it, for the reason that I locate those people names extremely forgettable. I preferred anything that was neat, unique, and straightforward to spell and fun to say.

“I gathered the team together in a home, wrote up on the whiteboard text like ‘dynamic,’ ‘alive,’ ‘jolt,’ ‘impact,’ ‘revolutionary,’ et cetera, and led the group in brainstorming,” Polese mentioned. “The title Java emerged in the course of that session. Other names provided DNA, Silk, Ruby, and WRL, for WebRunner Language—yuck!

Sami Shaio, then a Sunlight engineer, recalls the brainstorming assembly, held sometime all-around January of 1995. “It truly is truly challenging to say the place ‘Java’ very first came from, but it ended up on the list of candidates we selected … along with Silk, Lyric, Pepper, NetProse, Neon, and a host of other folks as well uncomfortable to mention.”

“Some other candidates were being WebDancer and WebSpinner,” said Chris Warth, who was an engineer on the challenge from its inception.

Even though advertising and marketing required a title that implied an association with the website or the internet, I think we did incredibly well to select a identify that wasn’t related with either one particular. Java is likely to find a real home in programs much from the world wide web, so it is greatest that it was not pigeonholed early.

James Gosling, Java’s creator, remembers that the identify originated in a assembly in which “about a dozen persons bought jointly to brainstorm.”

The conference, organized by Kim Polese, was basically continuous wild craziness. Loads of people just yelled out text. Who yelled out what very first is unknowable and unimportant. It felt like 50 % of the words in the dictionary have been yelled out at one particular time or another. There was a lot of: “I like this mainly because…” and “I really don’t like that since…” And in the close, we whittled it down to a listing of about a dozen names and handed it off to the lawyers.

“We were being seriously disgusted and exhausted from all the marathon hacking we might been executing at the time, and we nonetheless hadn’t found a title that we could use,” said Timothy Lindholm, an engineer on the challenge:

We ended up pressed for time, as adopting a new title intended a great deal of function, and we experienced releases coming up. So we set up a meeting to thrash out a checklist of names … I do not keep in mind there staying a specific winner of Java … Among the the people of the first group that I have talked to about this, most deny any memory of Java becoming just about anything but something that bubbled out of the team dynamic.

“I think the identify was 1st proposed by Chris Warth,” said Arthur van Hoff, then a senior engineer:

We had been in the conference for hrs and, though he was drinking a cup of Peet’s Java, he picked “Java” as an case in point of but an additional name that would in no way perform. The first reaction was mixed. I think the final candidates had been Silk, DNA, and Java, even so. I instructed Lingua Java, but that did not make it … We could not trademark the other names, so Java ended up currently being the title of choice. In the stop, our promoting person, Kim Polese, at last determined to go ahead with it.

How they landed on espresso

“I test-promoted the names at parties, and on my good friends and family members associates,” Polese recalled. “And Java acquired the most beneficial reactions of all the candidates.”

Simply because it wasn’t certain that we would get any of the names cleared as a result of trademark, I picked about three or 4 and labored with the attorneys on clearing them. Java handed, and it was my favourite, so I named the language Java and subsequently named the browser HotJava, a a great deal far better identify than WebRunner. The engineers had a hard time parting with Oak, but they at last acquired used to it … I felt that branding was really significant since I needed Java to be a typical. So I concentrated on making a very powerful brand for Java.

Yellin recalled a closing conference to vote on the title:

Just about every individual bought to rank Java, DNA, and Silk in buy of their desire. The same title that received the most “most-preferred” votes also bought the most “the very least-beloved” votes. So it was dropped. And of the remaining two, Java received the most votes. So it became the preferred name.

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

James Gosling seemed to favor Java about Silk. Kim Polese experienced the remaining say about the identify, since she was the merchandise supervisor. But most conclusions back then had been completed by every person sort of agreeing, and then anyone would just say, “Ok, this is what we are doing.”

Eric Schmidt, then Sun’s chief technology officer, said he was particular about the origin of the identify:

We satisfied in early 1995 at 100 Hamilton in a single of our common functioning evaluations for tiny firms like Oak. Bert Sutherland was the senior supervisor at the time—he labored for me—and he and Kim and a few some others together with James [Gosling] were there. Kim presented that: just one, we had to pick out a new title now, and two, Oak—which we had been all utilized to—was taken. As I recall, she proposed two names, Java and
Silk. Of the two, she strongly most popular Java and represented that the [Live Oak] staff was in arrangement. Bert and I resolved to approve her advice, and the choice was made. For people factors, I feel it is right to give Kim the credit score for the title. She offered it and sold it, and then manufactured it come about in promoting.

But, “I do look to recall that Kim was at first lukewarm on the name ‘Java,'” recalled Chris Warth.

At the time we ended up also attempting to rename our browser from WebRunner—which experienced been by now taken by Taligent—to something that was not already trademarked. Kim wanted items like WebSpinner or even WebDancer, a little something that would make it very clear that this was a Entire world Extensive Net item. The trademark search was completed, and immediately after a number of months a shorter list of cleared names arrived again … There appeared to be an endless collection of meetings and approvals that were necessary—as if the title were essentially meaningful.

“Kim wished us to maintain up the release so we could come across a better name than Java, but she was overruled by the engineers, specifically James and Arthur [van Hoff] and myself,” Warth said.

At just one position James mentioned we have been going to go with Java and HotJava, and Kim sent some electronic mail asking us to hold out for other names that could possibly crystal clear. James wrote back and mentioned “no,” we ended up likely with what we experienced. And we just did a quite brief set of renames in the source code and set the release out … In the conclusion, I consider the marketeers and vice presidents experienced considerably much less to say about the title than the engineers who ended up dying to get some thing out the doorway.

“I believe Kim is rewriting record a bit when she suggests that she picked this name for some savvy advertising rationale,” Warth added. “We finished up with this name simply because we ran out of solutions and we wanted to get our merchandise out. The advertising justifications came afterwards.”

Sleepless in Palo Alto

“I you should not declare to be the just one who to start with prompt the identify,” claimed Warth when questioned about van Hoff’s statement. “It certainly was Peet’s Java we had been drinking, but it may possibly have been me or James or an individual else. I just don’t remember precisely who said it.”

“The emotion among myself and James and the other engineers was that we could phone it ‘xyzzy’ and it would even now be popular,” Warth added. “In the stop it doesn’t issue who initially recommended the title, simply because it eventually was a team decision— potentially assisted along by a handful of caffeinated persons.”

Timothy Lindholm, the engineer, concluded:

I think that the extent to which the people today included have thought of the heritage of Java’s title without arriving at any generally agreed-on resolution reveals that the naming of Java was not done by some heroic individual, but was a by-item of a artistic and driven group seeking very really hard to accomplish their plans, of which this title was a element.” I would persuade you not to strive further than what is reasonable in ascribing the naming of Java to an specific. That is only not the way matters labored in those days. Really don’t be fooled by how people today and the media have subsequently filtered several aspects of Java’s development to suit their possess finishes.

Primary interview and story by Kieron Murphy for JavaWorld, 1996. Up to date for InfoWorld, 2022.

This story, “So why did they choose to contact it Java?” was initially printed by


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