The 8 Nights of Java – Night 6

Continuing on our 8 Nights of Java series, we move on to Java 6. Java 6 was about making Java “more”. As a result, a lot of the changes were important, but didn’t affect a developers day-to-day tasks. For example, annotations affected tool and library developers but were mostly unused for regular developers. Java 6 was initially released by Sun Microsystems, and later taken over by Oracle as part of the acquisition. This was also the last version of Java in which the Professional certification (SCJP renamed to OCP) could be completed with a single exam. Starting with Java 7 and continuing in Java 8, two exams are required to obtain an OCP certification.

Jump to: [Night 1 | Night 2 | Night 3 | Night 4 | Night 5 | Night 6 | Night 7 | Night 8]

Java 6 Notable Features
Sun released Java 6 (codename Mustang) on December 11, 2006. Notice they dropped “.0” from the version number, going from Java 5.0 to 6? This would be the last version of Java released by Sun, with Oracle taking over the Java 6 updates in 2010. Of all the versions of Java, version 6 was out there the longest, with 5 years (and 131 updates) before the release of Java 7.  Key new functionality included:

  • Renaming J2SE to Java SE
  • Common annotations support
  • JavaScript Rhino support
  • Performance improvements
  • JDBC 4.0

From Jeanne:

I have no memories of Java 6. I remember using it. While it was nice to finally ditch the “2” from the name of J2SE, I can’t think of a single thing that was new in it that I cared about. That said, the commons annotations support was a big deal. It let libraries like JUnit and Spring use custom annotations to be more expressive and easy to use. I do appreciate the feature and know it came from language updates. But since I used it when the libraries came out rather than when Java 6 came out, I don’t intuitively think of it as a Java 6 feature.

This does seem like a good place to reflect on the change in stewardship. We’ve been hearing about Oracle’s takeover spelling the death of Java since at least 2009. That’s right. The worries started even before Oracle acquired Sun. The rumors are still with us and stronger. They’ve moved more to the Java EE space more than in the core Java space. Oracle did rename the certifications from things like SCEA (Sun Certified Enterprise Architect) to OCEA (Oracle Certified Enterprise Architect). No surprise there. They also controversially added a requirement to take a class to a few certs to be more consistent with the database cert. Luckily, this requirement does not exist for the certifications Scott and I have written books about!

From Scott:

I have to agree with Jeanne on this. While Java 6 was a maturing release, with lots of new methods and features built on top of existing APIs, it paled in comparison to the Java 5.0 release in terms of scope. In other words, there wasn’t a compelling reason to go out and install Java 6 on all of your servers and desktops. As Jeanne started, the biggest change was really about Oracle’s acquisition of Java and handover of the platform and staff (remember Sun employees overnight became Oracle employees!). Java 7 was delayed almost 5 years because of this transition. As I said on Night 1, people have been predicting the death of Java since the first year it existed and the acquisition by Oracle was no different. While Oracle did make changes to Java, especially to the certifications, it’s fair to say they kept most things intact, helping Java to continue to thrive today.

One other important note. Java 6 had the most number of updates and patches, in part because so many “zero day” bugs were discovered. I’m not sure this was a deficit in Java, so much as this was Java spreading as a server platform across the web. Any server technology must be constantly kept up-to-date, as exploits are discovered all the time in the wild. As of April 2015, Oracle no longer publicly supports Java 6. Any servers running Java 6 must be updated and any that are not are prime targets for hackers.

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