In 1996, James Gosling, Bill Joy, and Guy Steele wrote for the First Edition of The Java Language Specification:
"We believe that the Java programming language is a mature language, ready for widespread use. Nevertheless, we expect some evolution of the language in the years to come. We intend to manage this evolution in a way that is completely compatible with existing applications."
Java SE 8 represents the single largest evolution of the Java language in its history. A relatively small number of features - lambda expressions, method references, and functional interfaces - combine to offer a programming model that fuses the object-oriented and functional styles. Under the leadership of Brian Goetz, this fusion has been accomplished in a way that encourages best practices - immutability, statelessness, compositionality - while preserving "the feel of Java" - readability, simplicity, universality.
Crucially, the libraries of the Java SE platform have co-evolved with the Java language. This means that using lambda expressions and method references to represent behavior - for example, an operation to be applied to each element in a list - is productive and performant "out of the box". In a similar fashion, the Java Virtual Machine has co-evolved with the Java language to ensure that default methods support library evolution as consistently as possible across compile time and run time, given the constraints of separate compilation.
Initiatives to add first-class functions to the Java language have been around since the 1990s. The BGGA and CICE proposals circa 2007 brought new energy to the topic, while the creation of Project Lambda in OpenJDK circa 2009 attracted unprecedented levels of interest. The addition of method handles to the JVM in Java SE 7 opened the door to new implementation techniques while retaining "write once, run anywhere". In time, language changes were overseen by JSR 335, Lambda Expressions for the Java Programming Language, whose Expert Group consisted of Joshua Bloch, Kevin Bourrillion, Andrey Breslav, Rémi Forax, Dan Heidinga, Doug Lea, Bob Lee, David Lloyd, Sam Pullara, Srikanth Sankaran, and Vladimir Zakharov.
Programming language design typically involves grappling with degrees of complexity utterly hidden from the language's users. (For this reason, it is often compared to an iceberg: 90% of it is invisible, "below the water line".) In JSR 335, the greatest complexity lurked in the interaction of implicitly typed lambda expressions with overload resolution. In this and many other areas, Dan Smith at Oracle did an outstanding job of thoroughly specifying the desired behavior. His words are to be found throughout this specification, including an entirely new chapter on type inference.
Another initiative in Java SE 8 has been to enhance the utility of annotations, one of the most popular features of the Java language. First, the Java grammar has been extended to allow annotations on types in many linguistic constructs, forming the basis for novel static analysis tools such as the Checker Framework. This feature was specified by JSR 308, Annotations on Java Types, led by Michael Ernst with an Expert Group of myself, Doug Lea, and Srikanth Sankaran. The changes involved in this specification were wide-ranging, and the unstinting efforts of Michael Ernst and Werner Dietl over many years are warmly recognized. Second, annotations may be "repeated" on a linguistic construct, to the great benefit of APIs that model domain-specific configuration with annotation types. Michael Keith and Bill Shannon in Java EE initiated and guided this feature.
Many colleagues in the Java Platform Group at Oracle have provided valuable support to this specification: Leonid Arbouzov, Mandy Chung, Joe Darcy, Robert Field, Joel Franck, Sonali Goel, Jon Gibbons, Jeannette Hung, Stuart Marks, Eric McCorkle, Matherey Nunez, Mark Reinhold, Vicente Romero, John Rose, Georges Saab, Steve Sides, Bernard Traversat, and Michel Trudeau.
Perhaps the greatest acknowledgement must go to the compiler
engineers who make this specification "real". Maurizio Cimadamore at
Oracle worked heroically from the earliest days on the design of
lambda expressions and their implementation
javac. Support for Java SE 8 features in Eclipse
was contributed by Jayaprakash Arthanareeswaran, Shankha Banerjee,
Anirban Chakraborty, Andrew Clement, Stephan Herrmann, Markus Keller,
Jesper Møller, Manoj Palat, Srikanth Sankaran, and Olivier Thomann;
and in IntelliJ by Anna Kozlova, Alexey Kudravtsev, and Roman
Shevchenko. They deserve the thanks of the entire Java
Java SE 8 is a renaissance for the Java language. While some search for the "next great language", we believe that programming in Java is more exciting and productive than ever. We hope that it continues to wear well for you.