OpenJDK is consistently rising in popularity. In this blog we break down, what is OpenJDK? Learn the history of Java, OpenJDK in relation to Oracle JDK, and much more.
OpenJDK is an open source implementation of the Java Standard Edition (Java SE) and Java Development Kit (JDK). The OpenJDK source code is the basis for these commercial Java products. OpenJDK is available for free with a GNU General Public license.
The Java language itself is a general-purpose, cross-platform language which was developed by James Gosling at Sun Microsystems in the mid-1990s.
Java solved a number of textbook software development problems at the time, including portability with its write-once, run-anywhere (WORA) approach, simplified memory management, and full abstraction from the operating system.
Today in 2020, the OpenJDK source code is still the base code upon which all other distributions of Java, including the Oracle JDK, are built:
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In 2006, Sun Microsystems made the decision to open source Java. And in November of 2006 the majority of the source code for Java was released under the GPL. This initial release included the Java Virtual Machine (Hotspot) as well as the ‘javac’ Java compiler. Combined, these components would allow Java developers to both write and run code against a completely free and open source Java platform.
The remainder of the Java Development Kit would follow and by 2007, all but only a few shreds of proprietary code would be released to the community. By 2010, any of these still proprietary parts of the original code would be replaced by the OpenJDK community with free software.
This means that built distributions of OpenJDK are feature-compatible with the Oracle JVM. Using OpenJDK looks and feels very much like using Oracle JDK, or other builds of OpenJDK that you may be familiar with. Unlike Oracle JDK, even OpenJDK 8 doesn’t come with license obligations.
When you install or run Java OpenJDK in your environment, your experience as both user and developer will not deviate from what you are used to:
OpenJDK itself can be acquired in a number of ways, but for modern environments is arguably more accessible than versions of Java which must be downloaded and manually installed. This shouldn’t be surprising. Since the code is GPL licensed, it is freely redistributable. So, you don’t need to worry about logging into a website or signing into your account to acquire the software.
For instance, OpenJDK can be installed into most mainstream Linux environments using a native package manager:
In the end, OpenJDK can be thought of as “free” Java. It is free in the sense that there is no cost associated with it, and free in the sense that you can acquire it easily and redistribute it without worrying about license obligations.
OpenJDK is by definition more than that, OpenJDK is Java. The OpenJDK source forms the basis from which all other version of Java is created. And by extension, the use of OpenJDK brings developers closer to the epicenter of Java development.
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Chief Architect, Perforce Software
Justin has over 20 years of experience working in various software roles. He is an outspoken free software evangelist, delivering enterprise solutions, technical leadership, and community education on databases, architectures, and integration projects.