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Which Java is still free?

Let‘s cut through the confusion and get right to the key point: Oracle‘s latest releases including Java 17, 18, and 19 are available free of charge for personal or commercial use. However, outdated versions like Java 8 require purchase of a license for ongoing commercial support.

As a fellow tech enthusiast, I know it can be challenging to keep track of the rapid changes in Java licensing. This guide aims to make clear exactly which Java versions remain free, while outlining the risks of sticking with outdated releases. Read on for everything you need to know to keep your Java environment up-to-date at no cost.

Outdated Java comes with a cost

First, let‘s briefly recap the history of Java licensing changes:

  • Java 8 – Released in 2014, public updates ended in 2019. Now requires license for commercial use.
  • Java 9 to 16 – Released 2017-2021, required a commercial license for production.
  • Java 17 and later – Free under Oracle‘s No-Fee Terms and Conditions license.

As you can see, older versions like the once popular Java 8 now incur licensing fees for businesses based on number of employees and servers. Published price tiers range from $15 per user per month down to $5.25 at higher volumes.

Staying on outdated Java means leaving yourself vulnerable to security risks without continued patches. Plus you face growing costs to Oracle. Let‘s look at how to avoid both pitfalls.

Performance evolves with each Java release

The Java language itself evolves slowly to maintain stability, but performance optimizations arrive with each major release. For processor-intensive applications like analytics, gaming and streaming, speed matters.

Consider these benchmark results demonstrating performance gains:

Java Version Speed vs Java 11
Java 8 -8% slower
Java 16 +2% faster
Java 17 +8% faster

The jump from Java 11 to Java 17 yields up to 10% better throughput. For a high-traffic web service, that can significantly reduce hosting costs.

Java 17 also introduced features like a foreign function API and record classes that simplify development. Staying current allows you to take advantage of the latest innovations.

The risks of outdated Java versions

One consequence of Java 8 reaching end-of-life is that discoveries of new vulnerabilities like Log4Shell no longer receive backported fixes. Any exposed Internet-facing servers run serious risks.

Research shows over 70% of Java applications contain components with known vulnerabilities. The average time to exploit recently disclosed bugs? Just 5 days.

Without constant vigilance, outdated Java practically welcomes cyber attacks. Keeping up with the latest releases eliminates this concern by inheriting cumulative security fixes.

Choose between Oracle JDK and OpenJDK

Outside of licenses for legacy versions, Oracle JDK and various OpenJDK builds remain free for production use. Let‘s compare these options:

Oracle JDK

  • Backed by Oracle support and compatibility testing
  • May offer performance advantages in some workloads
  • Requires accepting OTN license terms


  • Open source reference implementation of Java
  • Freely distributed by vendors like AdoptOpenJDK
  • Community supported with frequent updates

For personal or open source development use, OpenJDK provides a great free experience. Enterprise teams often prefer Oracle JDK‘s stability and vendor support.

Migrating legacy systems to current Java

Upgrading critical business systems relies on careful planning and testing. From auditing your current environment to piloting changes, here are 5 best practices:

  1. Audit – Catalog all legacy Java versions and dependencies.
  2. Prioritize – Determine the upgrade order based on risk.
  3. Test – Validate against current functionality in a staging environment.
  4. Address issues – Fix incompatible code or dependencies.
  5. Roll out – Gradually deploy to production across units.

Take things one step at a time. With adequate resources and testing, most apps can migrate from Java 8 to 17 within a year.

Java remains among the top languages

Don‘t let the licensing changes cause you to lose faith in Java itself. The 2022 StackOverflow survey saw Java remain the #3 most popular language with 40% of professional developers using it regularly.

The versatility of Java across industries keeps it dominant for everything from e-commerce platforms like Shopify to Android development to financial trading systems.

Java‘s rich ecosystem provides battle-tested frameworks for tasks like dependency injection, web services, and data access. Coupled with excellent tooling, Java delivers productivity for experienced enterprise developers.

The language also prioritizes backwards compatibility. Code written 20 years ago often still compiles and runs today. This maturity makes Java a trusted choice for robust, scalable applications.


I hope this guide has provided a useful perspective on Java licensing along with expert tips for keeping your skills and apps up to date. While legacy versions require licenses, Oracle has made the wise choice to again offer Java 17+ at no cost.

Taking advantage means saying goodbye to support fees and security worries. Take the opportunity to optimize performance and try out all the latest features as well! Let me know if you have any other questions. Happy coding!