On Naming, or Why EE4J Does Not Suck
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” — Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride, on Vizzini’s use of the word “inconceivable”.
On Thursday we announced that the draft top-level project charter for Eclipse Enterprise for Java (EE4J) was available for community feedback. Since that time, we haven’t received any feedback on the charter, but we have certainly had a lot of passionate feedback on the choice of name. If I could, I would summarize the bulk of the feedback that we’ve seen as “…EE4J is a pretty good acronym, but WTF is Eclipse doing in the name?” A lot of that feedback is based on some incorrect assumptions about what the EE4J name means. Which is totally my fault, because my initial blog post did not provide any context for how EE4J will be used, and not used, as a name and a brand. Hopefully this post will correct that.
Before I begin, I have to mention that a very large caveat on everything that follows. This post is based on my best guess on how things are going to work out, with the information I have at this moment. However, there are a significant number of agreements that have to be discussed regarding names, trademarks, and so on that have not yet been completed. It is possible that the future will not unfold as I think it will. So with that said….
EE4J is not the brand
I think that many people are assuming that EE4J will become the brand that replaces Java EE. Wrong. Java EE is a certification mark. To label something as “Java EE”, you need to get a license from Oracle and pass the TCKs. There are many implementations of Java EE such as WebLogic, WebSphere, JBoss, and Glassfish. EE4J is the name of the top-level project at the Eclipse Foundation. As such it is the umbrella under which the source code and TCKs for Glassfish, EclipseLink, and (hopefully) Eclipse MicroProfile will exist.
We are months away from even starting to define the specification process that will be used in the future. However, when we do I expect that this new process will create a new certification mark which can be properly considered the new “Java EE” name. We will be engaging with the community in the selection of that name.
The existing project names will continue to be used
I have seen some comments along the lines of “…it’ll be weird to install Eclipse Enterprise for Java into IntelliJ”. I’m actually pretty sure that what people will be installing is more likely to be called something like Eclipse Glassfish, or Eclipse MicroProfile.
Again, EE4J is the name of the top-level project at Eclipse. The projects within EE4J will continue to have their own identity, just as they do today. The committers and the PMC for EE4J will be deciding what artifacts they will be releasing and whether anything actually ships under the name EE4J. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. But only time will tell.
The solution space is smaller than you think
Anyone who has ever built and maintained a large piece of software knows that naming is hard. Naming widely used technologies that take on a brand identity and which require trademarking are harder still. Selecting the EE4J name had to solve a number of real world constraints:
- We wanted it to contain the word Java, but it also had to comply with the Java trademark guidelines. Oracle is the only entity that can use the word Java at the beginning of a name. Which meant that using “for Java” was pretty much a fixed requirement.
- Whether you call it JEE, J2EE, or Java EE for the entire life of the enterprise Java platform “EE” has been in the name. Continuing that tradition provides some clear benefits in terms of continuity and brand recognition. For what it is worth, we basically selected the acronym first and then backed into what the letters in the acronym might mean.
- The name has to be available to be trademarked. We actually ran full legal trademark searches on a couple of alternate names, and EE4J was the clear winner in terms of availability.
Hopefully this post provides some context for the naming choice that will help people understand what EE4J is, and is not, as a project name, brand, and trademark.
As Mark Little of Red Hat said in his post earlier today,
There’s a lot of pent-up passion and energy around Java EE and it would be so much better if individuals focused that on the charter at this point than complaining about the name. Yes, I understand that some people feel the name is important to the success of this effort but I can tell you all that there’s a lot more to choosing a name for a foundation or massively successful project than just … choosing the name.
The passion and commitment of the people in the Java EE community is amazing. Working with this community and welcoming you all to Eclipse is an opportunity and a responsibility that all of us at the Eclipse Foundation take very seriously. The future success of EE4J and the enterprise Java platform is going to be determined by whether we can get you talented, smart, and passionate Javaistas to contribute to the projects and the community.
I am looking forward to JavaOne next week, and hope to see many of you there!
P.S. Comments and discussion are welcomed over on the ee4j-community list. There are already over 100 subscribers there!