Is Java Still Free?
Written by Nikos Vaggalis   
Thursday, 20 September 2018

Given Oracle's attempts to regulate Java's use, it's no wonder that the debate between JDK and OpenJDK has led to doubt, that for some that even meant considering to jump the ship. Fortunately, the Java Champion Community, guardians of all things Java, has reacted to this awkard situation.

Its attempt to clear up the uncertainty is by publishing a statement with the unambiguous title Java Is Still Free.
The document is work in progress getting updated as developments evolve, and comes in two versions; the short one that jumps straight to the takeaways, and the longer that gets behind the scenes before making any recommendations.
The purpose of the document is clearly set at the very beginning:

"With the recent changes to Oracle JDK distribution and support, there‚Äôs been considerable uncertainty over the rights to use Oracle JDK vs Oracle's OpenJDK builds vs OpenJDK builds from other providers. There are also plans around free updates, and (new and existing) paid support models available from various vendors to consider."
Take a good look at the words in bold to understand where this situation is fuelled from - fragmentation, end of public updates and of course licensing, as in Free as in Speech (restrictions-wise) against Free as in Beer (cost-wise).
The crucial takeaways if you prefer the shorter version are that: 
"you can still get Java SE binaries "free as in beer" from Oracle and other Java SE / OpenJDK providers."
and that
"although there are proprietary and/or restricted usage implementations of Java SE out there (Azul's Zing, Oracle's JDK etc), for a vast majority of users there is always the option of using an OpenJDK binary, which is "free as in speech" as it is GPLv2+CE licensed."
The longer version goes beyond that, also detailing some less crucial  but nevertheless important points:
  • Java SE now has a feature release every six months 

  • Red Hat intends to apply for the leadership of OpenJDK 8 after Oracle stops updating it in January 2019

  • Starting with Java SE 11, neither the OpenJDK builds or the Oracle JDK binaries include the JavaFX libraries. The JavaFX components will now be delivered as a separate SDK

  • Java Web Start has been removed from Java 11 onwards
These are followed with a great FAQ hosting answers to troublesome questions posed by anxious developers, such as "what are the differences between OpenJDK vs Oracle's OpenJDK builds vs Oracle JDK", and  "do I have to pay to get security and bug fixes? If I stay on Oracle JDK 8 / 11 ?"
All-in-all, going through the long version of the document is highly recommended as it definitely does clear things up on the current and future status of Java SE. The reinforcing summary is that, whichever way you get your JDK builds, there's little to worry about, for the foreseeable future at least...

More Information

Java Is Still Free (document)

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