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We all know the story: Give away an elegant, open 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 lingua franca for next-generation application developers, though, decided upon a coffee metaphor for their trademark. Oak, the previous name, was taken. Why they did so, by their own accounts, is still something of a mystery.
To find out the true story behind the Java name, JavaWorld interviewed several of the key people at Sun involved in the naming process. Their accounts appear below. Feel free to draw your own conclusions.
"The lawyers had told us that we couldn't use the name 'OAK' because [it was already trademarked by] Oak Technologies," said Frank Yellin, a senior engineer at Sun. "So a brainstorming session was held to come up with ideas for a new name. The session was attended by all members of what was then called the Live Oak group, those of us actively working on the new language. The end result was that about ten possible names were chosen. They were then submitted to the legal department. Three of them came back clean: Java, DNA, and Silk. No one remembers who first came up with the name 'Java.' Only one person, to the best of my knowledge, has ever suggested in public to being the creator of the name."
"I named Java," said Kim Polese, then the Oak product manager and now CEO of Marimba Inc. "I spent a lot of time and energy on naming Java because I wanted to get precisely the right name. I wanted something that reflected the essence of the technology: dynamic, revolutionary, lively, fun. Because this programming language was so unique, I was determined to avoid nerdy names. I also didn't want anything with 'Net' or 'Web' in it, because I find those names very forgettable. I wanted something that was cool, unique, and easy to spell and fun to say.
"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!"
"I believe the [brainstorming] meeting was held around January of 1995," said Sami Shaio, a Sun engineer at the time, who has since become a founding partner of Marimba. "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."