June 06, 2001, 6:03 PM — In the past six years, the Java programming language has spread from a handful of hard-core developers to an estimated total of 2.5 million users and evolved from a client-only technology to a key piece of server-level software. James Gosling, the mastermind behind the language and a vice president and fellow at Sun Microsystems Inc., spoke with Computerworld at this week's annual JavaOne conference here about Web-based computing services and other issues related to Java.
Q: With Web services, there seems to be more emphasis on architecture, object-oriented programming and good design. Is that the case?
A: You can do Web services any way you want -- [even with a room full of chipmunks shuffling paper back and forth. What things like object-oriented programming do is give you the tools to manage large, complex systems and deal with their evolution and interoperability. As you build Web services, all of those problems are a huge issue.
Q: A lot of developers are smitten with Java, but many say they're just getting into complex stuff such as creating Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB). Why is it taking so long for them to tackle complex applications?
A: A part of that problem is who you talk to. There are people who have been doing EJB stuff for the past year. The number of engineers doing automotive software or heating and cooling software will [also] be pretty small. Not many people need to design those systems, but the impact will be huge because their volume will be huge.
Q: Is Sun using new development techniques such as eXtreme Programming [which pairs two programmers to work on code side-by-side and is referred to as XP] or lightweight coding [in which programs are kept to their simplest functional parts]?
A: We use some parts of [them]. XP has a real focus on testing, and we certainly have that religion big-time ... The pair-programming thing, I don't know that people [at Sun] would do it. For most of the people I know, it gives them the creeps. [But] we essentially never have one person design something, then put it in the product and ship it without [the code] being very extensively reviewed and criticized and challenged.
Q: Do you see Microsoft Corp. and Sun working together on Java again, in the wake of the settlement of your courtroom battles earlier this year?
A: It's possible, but I think it would be unlikely. In some sense, there is a philosophical opposition that we have with them. Their strategies are oriented around Microsoft owning everything, but we care much more about having a healthy market with a community of developers and a community of companies.
Q: Because Sun controls Java, though, it gets a leg up on the technology over other vendors. Could you end up facing the same criticism you're leveling at Microsoft?