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I don't believe they have ever removed a Class or method from the JDK... Thread still has all of those super-unsafe or non-implemented methods in it (see: stop(), destroy() etc.)

I think part of the reason for this ultra-conservative approach might be that alternate JVM implementations could in theory have well-implemented versions of deprecated methods such as the above-mentioned Thread ones.

No, they (Sun) could not care less for alternate JVM implementations. The reason for that ultra-conservative approach was that they were hell bent on keeping compatibility.

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