What is Java?
Oak, DNA, Silk, and Green were possible names for James Gosling’s newly minted, object-oriented programming language back in the early 1990s, but the one he settled on was Java, named after the Indonesian coffee. Gosling, a Canadian computer scientist employed by Sun Microsystems (now owned by Oracle) created Java in 1991 alongside Mike Sheridan and Patrick Noughton and released it for public use four years later.
Over 20 years later, Java is now pervasive: Android apps, Hadoop, web server applications, enterprise desktop applications, retail, banking — Java is everywhere. Thus, it shouldn’t be surprising that it’s consistently ranked as the most preferred (and often lucrative) programming language.
Designed with a syntax inspired by C/C++, the core promise of Java that programmers would find familiar and approachable, was Write Once, Run Anywhere (WORA) which would ensure no-cost runtimes on the most in-demand platforms. When being used for web development, Java has long been the go-to programming language for applications on Google’s Android platform.
Java hosts a wide array of advantages:
- Gold standard for Android, enterprise and desktop applications. Java was the original cornerstone of Android app development. With Java comes a huge community of developers, alongside any and all tools and frameworks an application would need.
- Speed and performance. One of the advantages of being a compiled language is that it means Java runs extremely fast.
- Mobility across platforms. The Java Virtual Machine (JVM) makes it easy to run Java applications on any OS or device with JVM installed.
- Easy to learn. There are few programming languages that feature as short a learning curve as Java. It’s been around forever and that means if a problem exists, it’s already been encountered and solved, and you’ll likely find countless tutorials and guides that should make troubleshooting a breeze.
Of course, there are some things that may not lead you to believe that Java is right for you. Java does require a high degree of available memory, and its popularity and longevity also means that hackers have had a good crack at exploiting its vulnerabilities. Thankfully, this also means that security professionals have spent just as much time with it and security best practices are well understood.
- Can work outside of web now with Node.js. Thanks to the introduction of Node.js in 2009, what was once a strictly web-only scripting language can now be access on the front and back end.
To recap, while Java was designed for general purpose, approachable programming, that would grant developers an easy ability to build their own standalone applications. Its development began before consumers had widescale access to the Internet, and the focus was on programming consumer electronics, like VCRs and interactive TVs.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the major differences between these two languages.
Which is better?
For some general guidance consider the following:
Projects that Java is ideally suited for:
- Applications for Android
- Server-side applications like Apache, Glassfish, WildFly, etc.
- Enterprise Software
- Big data analytics and scientific computing
- General purpose programming of hardware
- Adding interactive behavior to web pages, including web forms, slidable carousels of images, audio and video, animations, drop-down menus and more.
- Web and mobile apps developed through Node (some notable examples include the mobile apps for Netflix, Uber, and PayPal).
- Web servers and server applications.