When Time magazine called Java one of the 10 best products of 1995, a new American marketing legend was born. Who's to say whether Sun Microsystems' prized technology would have fared so well if its name had remained Oak or Greentalk, two of the earlier choices.
We all know the story: Give away an elegant, open source 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 programming language for next-generation application developers, though, decided upon a coffee metaphor for their trademark. Oak, the previous name, was taken. But why they chose Java by their own accounts, was something of a mystery.
This group interview, originally published by JavaWorld in 1996, offers a fascinating look back on how Java got its name.
How Java became Java
"The lawyers had told us that we couldn't use the name 'OAK'," said Frank Yellin, then a senior engineer at Sun. That name was already trademarked by Oak Technologies:
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 10 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.
Kim Polese, who was the Oak product manager at the time, remembers things differently. "I named Java," she said: