It seems that Google may have found a way to ditch a copyright lawsuit from Oracle surrounding its use of Java API. Either that or it’s part of a secret settlement between the two. Whatever the underlying reason, Google has confirmed that starting Android N, the mobile platform will be removing its dependency on Oracle‘s proprietary Java in favor of the open source OpenJDK implementation. While Google’s official reason is to root for open source software, the motive might have a tinge of legal maneuvering.
Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems, the original owners of the Java programming language and core libraries, in 2010 and ever since then it has been on a warpath with Google over Android. Oracle’s beef is that Android uses its Java API without permission. APIs or Application Programming Interfaces are like the vocabularies of programming languages, hooks that software developers can use to access functionality. Google holds that APIs cannot be copyrighted, sparking a debate that has split the tech industry into camps.
To this day, that issue has not yet been resolved with legal finality. Although a jury sided with Google’s view on API and copyright in 2012, a federal court reversed that decision, saying that APIs can indeed be copyrighted. Last June, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case itself, sending it back to lower courts.
Considering that the case is still ongoing, Google unsurprisingly is mum on that point. Instead, it is drawing attention to the open source nature of Android, which exhorts the use of open source libraries as well. The silent change was noticed in a source code commit which is now being confirmed by Google to be the case for future Android versions.
For end users, there shouldn’t be any noticeable difference, as OpenJDK is a complete stand-in for Oracle’s proprietary implementation. For developers, it means no longer having to choose between the two and standardizing on just one. For Google, it also opens the door for having a lot more influence in how the open source implementation is developed, especially in ways that can benefit Android directly.