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So why did they decide to call it Java? – InfoWorld

By Kieron Murphy
InfoWorld |
When Time magazine called Java one of the 10 best products of 1995, a new American marketing legend was born. Who’s to say whether Sun Microsystems’ prized technology would have fared so well if its name had remained Oak or Greentalk, two of the earlier choices.
We all know the story: Give away an elegant, open source programming environment and the world will beat a path to your door. No sweat, no matter what you decide to call it. The people charged with establishing a brand identity for Sun’s programming language for next-generation application developers, though, decided upon a coffee metaphor for their trademark. Oak, the previous name, was taken. But why they chose Java by their own accounts, was something of a mystery.
This group interview, originally published by JavaWorld in 1996, offers a fascinating look back on how Java got its name. 
“The lawyers had told us that we couldn’t use the name ‘OAK’,” said Frank Yellin, then a senior engineer at Sun. That name was already trademarked by Oak Technologies:
Kim Polese, who was the Oak product manager at the time, remembers things differently. “I named Java,” she said:
“I gathered the team together in a room, wrote up on the whiteboard words like ‘dynamic,’ ‘alive,’ ‘jolt,’ ‘impact,’ ‘revolutionary,’ et cetera, and led the group in brainstorming,” Polese said. “The name Java emerged during that session. Other names included DNA, Silk, Ruby, and WRL, for WebRunner Language—yuck!
Sami Shaio, then a Sun engineer, recalls the brainstorming meeting, held sometime around January of 1995. “It’s actually hard to say where ‘Java’ first came from, but it ended up on the list of candidates we chose … along with Silk, Lyric, Pepper, NetProse, Neon, and a host of others too embarrassing to mention.”
“Some other candidates were WebDancer and WebSpinner,” said Chris Warth, who was an engineer on the project from its inception:
James Gosling, Java’s creator, remembers that the name originated in a meeting where “about a dozen people got together to brainstorm.”
“We were really disgusted and tired from all the marathon hacking we’d been doing at the time, and we still hadn’t found a name that we could use,” said Timothy Lindholm, an engineer on the project:
“I believe the name was first suggested by Chris Warth,” said Arthur van Hoff, then a senior engineer:
“I test-marketed the names at parties, and on my friends and family members,” Polese recalled. “And Java got the most positive reactions of all the candidates.”
Yellin recalled a final meeting to vote on the name:
“It came down to Silk or Java, and Java won out,” Shaio remembered:
Eric Schmidt, then Sun’s chief technology officer, said he was certain about the origin of the name:
But, “I do seem to recall that Kim was initially lukewarm on the name ‘Java,'” recalled Chris Warth:
“Kim wanted us to hold up the release so we could find a better name than Java, but she was overruled by the engineers, especially James and Arthur [van Hoff] and myself,” Warth said:
“I think Kim is rewriting history a bit when she suggests that she picked this name for some savvy marketing reason,” Warth added. “We ended up with this name because we ran out of options and we wanted to get our product out. The marketing justifications came later.”
“I don’t claim to be the one who first suggested the name,” said Warth when questioned about van Hoff’s statement. “It definitely was Peet’s Java we were drinking, but it might have been me or James or someone else. I just don’t recall exactly who said it.”
“The feeling amongst myself and James and the other engineers was that we could call it ‘xyzzy’ and it would still be popular,” Warth added. “In the end it doesn’t matter who originally suggested the name, because it ultimately was a group decision— perhaps helped along by a handful of caffeinated people.”
Timothy Lindholm, the engineer, concluded:
Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.
Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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