It’s back! After a long hiatus and seemingly endless dithering by Sun, Oracle has officially given Java the kick in the pants it needed. The language that took five revisions just to get generics is no longer the odd language out.

It would certainly seem the fears that Oracle would somehow mess up the community’s deal with Java have been alleviated, thanks to the clear road map, spiffy new features and the stability of the internal team at Oracle. It’s as if the same people who were already doing a great job advancing Java got a huge injection of cash and people-power. Oh wait, that’s exactly what happened!

Java is no longer standing still. The Java ecosystem is learning from the myriad languages that had become popular to run on top of the JVM. Whereas Clojure and Scala push functional language constructs to better facilitate concurrency and parallelism, Java SE 8 will include closures, or Lambdas. And this change is scheduled for release around a year from the release of Java SE 7.

Perhaps that alone is enough to demonstrate just how much more quickly the language is moving. The last time Java saw year-on-year point update releases was 1998. Then, updates came every two years until 2006, when Java SE 6 was released.

This past July, we finally got Java SE 7. The logjam at the JCP was finally broken by Oracle, and a host of new members joined in the fall. In fact, this year’s JCP elections saw more candidates for seats on the committees than the past five years.

But the JCP was not without its issues in 2011. The Apache Foundation resigned from the JCP in a huff. That non-profit is still upset over the terms of use restrictions in the Java TCK. Oracle’s representatives have said that this issue will eventually be addressed, but for now, Apache remains outside.