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So long, and thanks for everything

Posted by enicholas on June 28, 2006 at 10:25 AM PDT

When you work at a major Internet company like Yahoo!, deployment is a Big Deal. You have millions of customers running every version of every OS imaginable, some with marginally working computers, and they all need to be able to run your software. And they need to run it now -- make them wait too long, or download too much, and they'll give up and move on to your competitors.

While I'm definitely a huge Java fan, it's a hard technology to deploy to end-users. If a particular user doesn't have Java installed, or doesn't have the right version of Java installed, there are major challenges surrounding the detection, installation, and upgrading process. Even if users have the right version of Java installed, its behavior in web browsers isn't necessary all that reliable. I posted a couple of high-profile rants about Java deployment issues recently, to try to call some attention to these issues.

I wasn't really expecting much of a response. I figured some fellow complainers would show up, we'd talk amongst ourselves for a little while, and that would be the end of things. I wasn't expecting Sun to even notice my complaints, let alone actually do something about them. I was happy to be proven wrong.

I was asked to put together a resume, and invited to interview with the Java Deployment team. After two rounds of phone interviews and a grueling eight-hour interview process in Burlington, I accepted an offer to join Sun, and will finally have the opportunity to address some of the problems that have been bugging me for so long. This is a really exciting change for me -- to finally be working on Java, instead of just with it, and to be able to influence where things are headed... well, it's a Java geek's dream come true. Or at least it's this Java geek's dream come true.

We're still working out the details, but I should be starting at Sun in about a month. Yahoo! is a great company, and has been very good to me over the years, but this was an opportunity I just couldn't pass up.

To dispel any rumors...

Before any rumors get started, let me be the first to say that just because I blogged about some deployment ideas does not mean that any of those ideas will necessarily get implemented. Sun obviously found them interesting, or I daresay I wouldn't have been hired, but there's a big difference between finding an idea interesting and actually putting in the time and money necessary to implement it. In particular, don't expect a Java Browser Edition -- much as I would love to see it happen, I'm not naive enough to believe that it's at all likely.

I do have a lot of ideas for improvements to the Java Plug-In and Java Web Start; reasonably small, practical features that will nevertheless make a huge difference in how easy it is to deploy Java programs. Hopefully some of them will actually get implemented eventually, but at this point it's far to early to speculate on how things will work out. Rest assured that I will be doing my best to push for easier deployment solutions, and I'm all ears if you have any suggestions of your own.

What about JAXX?

What does this mean for JAXX, the declarative XML user-interface language I'm working on? In the short term, not much. The position I was hired for has nothing to do with JAXX, and I will still be doing all JAXX work in my spare time, rather than as a Sun-sponsored activity.

What about the long term? Your guess is as good as mine. All I know for sure is that I have a lot of ideas for the future of JAXX, and will continue to crank away on it. If the Swing team decides to add a user interface language to Java at some point (which I know they have considered), I expect I would at least be involved in the discussion. Other than that... who knows?

Looking ahead

The decision to leave Yahoo! was both difficult and painful, but I think I made the right choice. I'm very excited to be joining Sun, and I hope that I will be able to really make a difference. Wish me luck!