The Supreme Court has now come out with its decision in the long-running Google v. Oracle case. To take a deeper dive, we’ve invited David O’Neill, CEO of APIMetrics to help us analyze the true impact of the decision.
First, some background: Oracle owns the copyright in Java SE, a computer program that uses the Java computer programming language, which is used by millions of computer programmers around the world. Google developed the Android platform specifically for smartphones. To make that platform more easily usable by programmers already familiar with Java, Google copied roughly 11,500 lines of code from the Java SE program that are part of a tool called the Application Programming Interface (API). In 2010, Oracle sued Google for copying Oracle’s APIs.
And what are APIs? An API is a standard package of computer code that lets one program interface with another program or hardware. It is essentially a documented definition on how you do a thing…think of it like a recipe. The API could be a recipe for a particular dish—let’s say it’s French fries. Programmers use APIs to call up that particular recipe—a dozen kitchens could take a potato, cut it into strips and fry it, and end up with a dozen different end products. The “magic” for want of a better word isn’t in the concept behind cutting a potato up and frying it; it’s how you cut it, how you treat it after cutting, what you fry it in and for how long, and how you season and present it. So if you want saltier fries, you use one API; if you want crisper fries, you use a different API. But the API is only making it easier to add fries to the plate by instructing the chef what you want; it is not a restaurant by itself.