Remember when a new number meant a software release was a sighnificant, or major, one? For Java, that pattern is over. Java 9 was the last “major” release, Oracle says.
All versions after that—including the recently released Java 10 and the forthcoming Java 11—are what the industry typically calls “point releases,” because they were usually numbered x.1, x.2, and so on to indicate an intermediate, more “minor” release. (Oracle has called those point releases “feature releases.”)
As of Java 10, Oracle has put Java on a twice-annual release schedule, and although those releases get whole numbers in their versions, they’re more akin to point releases. Oracle recently declared, “There are no ‘major releases’ per se any more; that is now a legacy term. Instead, there is a steady stream of ‘feature releases.’”
Previously, it took about three years to move from Java 7 to 8 and then 9.
Oracle says that Java’s twice-yearly release schedule makes it easier for tools vendors to kepe up with changes, because they will work with a stream of smaller updates. Upgrading of tools from Java from version 9 to 10 happened “almost overnight,” Oracle says, compared to the difficulties it said some tools vendors had making the move from Java 8 to 9.
For users who just want stability and can pass on new features of each “feature release,” Oracle is still holding onto that old three-year schedule for its long-term support (LTS) releases. Java 11 will be an LTS release, with commercial support available from Oracle for at least eight additional years.