Java is a general-purpose programming language and computing platform for application development. It is commonly used for tasks such as:
- Back-end development projects, including those involving big data and Android development
- Desktop computing
- Other mobile computing
- Game development
- Numerical computing
Today, our internet is heavily saturated with Java-based programming, and we have Java to thank for the many applications that make our day-to-day life easier, such as search engines, social media apps, medical devices, cloud-based storage, and so much more.
Java was developed by James Gosling at Sun Microsystems in 1991 and released into the world in 1995. Surprisingly, Java’s creation was accidental, as Gosling and his team were building a set-top box and began “cleaning up” the C++ program language currently being used. The result was an entirely new programming language they named Oak at the time. This was soon renamed Java when they discovered Oak was a name already registered for a computer company.
In 2009, Sun Microsystems was acquired by Oracle Corporation. To date, Java is one of the most widely used programming languages in the world. In fact, it is used by 95% of enterprises as their primary programming language. Additionally, the Java language is central to the Android operating system, which powers the largest share of the world’s smartphones.
Some of the well-known companies which use Java include:
To create an application using Java, you first need to download the Java Development Kit (JDK), which is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux. Then, you write the program using the Java programming language, before a compiler turns the program into what’s known as Java bytecode. Java bytecode can be described as the instruction set for the Java Virtual Machine (JVM), which is a part of the Java runtime environment (JRE). This Java bytecode runs without modification on any system that supports Java Virtual Machines and allows your Java code to be run anywhere.
Features of Java
Java offers several features, including:
- It uses a compiler to execute codes
- The ability to write code once and run it on almost any computing platform
- It is designed for building object-oriented applications
- It is a multithreaded language with automatic memory management
- It enables distributed computing as it is network-centric
Key benefits of using Java
Java offers several key benefits to users, which contribute to its status as one of the most popular programming languages in the world. Let’s take a look at each of these below.
- Platform-independent. Java is a platform-independent programming language, meaning you can write your code once and then run it anywhere, on any platform that has a JVM (Java Virtual Machine) installed in it. Java can therefore be used to create programs that can run across desktops, mobiles, and embedded systems, helping users to create a wide array of applications to meet their needs.
- Multi-threading. Java also supports what is known as multi-threading, which means it contains two or more parts that can run concurrently, and each part can handle a different task at the same time. Therefore, Java has the capability to perform numerous tasks simultaneously, making it a highly efficient platform for users.
- Robust and secure. Java is celebrated for offering a highly secured environment for application development. Not only is it able to handle and remove errors, but Java also has the ability to reduce the risk of crashing, prevent the attacks of viruses, and monitor for the misuse of resources. This robust security gives users immense confidence when using the platform.
- Dynamic and extensible. Another key benefit of Java is the fact that it is a dynamic and extensible language since it is designed to adapt to an evolving environment. All the classes, objects, methods, and libraries in Java are dynamically linked in Java. As an extensible language, Java also supports various functions that are written in other languages. This includes the widely used C and C++, which are commonly used for graphics-heavy software such as games, photo and video editing apps, and browsers.
- Ease of use. Java was designed primarily with ease of use in mind, and it is, therefore, simpler to write, compile, debug, and learn than most other programming languages. There are also open-source implementations of Java, including Sun’s Java implementation (the most popular version), meaning it is free to use in production.
- A wide range of resources is available. Because Java is one of the most popular programming languages and computing platforms for application development, there is a large and very active community offering support, forums, resources, and other opportunities. Java User Groups (JUGs) are volunteer organizations that share Java-related knowledge around the world, while the Oracle Technology Network (OTN) provides links to Java APIs, blogs, downloads, and more.
Disadvantages of Java
While Java offers several benefits, the programming language and computing platform do have some drawbacks. These disadvantages include:
- Slow speed. When compared to other programming languages such as C and C++, Java is known to perform significantly slower. This is due to the Just-In-Time (JIT) compiler, which compiles bytecodes to native machine code at run time as well as the extra level of compilation and abstraction by the Java Virtual Machine. Additionally, the garbage collector function consumes more CPU time. This is because all other threads have to be paused to allow the garbage collector thread to work.
- High memory and processing requirements. Despite Java’s efficiency, the program does require high memory usage and processing requirements to execute tasks. Because of this, hardware costs increase, so it isn’t always a budget-friendly option for developers.
- Lack of support for low-level programming. While Java is excellent at providing developers with the resources they need to perform high-level programming constructs, it sadly does not provide the same amount of support for executing low-level programming constructs. One such construct is pointers, which is an object in many programming languages that stores a memory address. Instead, developers must do pointer manipulation in C++ or C.
- Little control over garbage collection. Java’s garbage collector (GC) is a background process that provides automatic memory management for the Java environment. It does so by controlling the deallocation of a program’s computer memory resources. Unfortunately, the garbage collection feature doesn’t provide users with functions such as “Delete” or “Free,” resulting in a lack of user control.
- Adding interactive behaviour to web pages
- Creating web and mobile apps
- Building web servers and developing server applications
- Game development
- It’s a cross-platform language
- It can be used for both client-side and server-side
- It has a strong testing workflow
- It’s simple and quick to learn and to start coding with
- It has added dependencies
- Procedural programming features. Procedural programming uses a structured approach to coding, where the functionality of the program is broken down into a number of functions to make it easier to follow. This also greatly reduces the need to repeat code and therefore allows users to make their web apps more creative.
Java is primarily used for all server-side development. Its purpose is to enable developers to:
- Write software on one platform, but be able to run it on virtually any other platform
- Create programs that can run within a web browser and access available web services
- Develop server-side applications to power online forums, e-commerce stores, polls, HTML forms processing, and so much more
- Combine applications or services using the Java language to create highly customized or unique applications or services
- Write robust and efficient applications for mobile phones, remote processors, microcontrollers, wireless modules, sensors, gateways, consumer products, and basically any other electronic device you can think of
- In-browser games
- Video players
- Interactive maps
Applications run differently
Java can be used to create complete applications that can run on a single computer or be supplied among servers and clients in an entire network. It can also be utilized to build simply designed, small applications for use as part of a web page. Referred to as “applets”, these mini-applications make it possible for a web page user to interact with individual components of the page.
The usability of Java applications is diverse, as they can be found everywhere from Android, desktop, banking, and financial applications, to data search engines, cloud-based systems, artificial intelligence software, and more.
- Displaying date and time
- To authenticate the user input before submission of the form
- To open or close new windows or tabs
- To display dialogue boxes and pop-ups
- To change the look of HTML documents
- To create forms that respond to user input without having to access the server
Compiled vs Interpreted
Multithreading means that you have multiple threads of performance inside the same application. A thread is like a separate central processing unit (CPU) accomplishing your application. Thus, a multithreaded application is like an application that has multiple CPUs executing different parts of the code simultaneously.
Java is static and known as a strongly typed language. This means the programming language enforces strict restrictions on intermixing of values with different data types and when a restriction occurs, it results in an error.
Object-oriented programming (OOP)
Libraries and frameworks
Therefore, you should consider Java if your project involves:
- Android apps
- Enterprise software
- Scientific computing
- Big data analytics
- General-purpose programming of hardware
- Server-side technologies such as Apache, NGINX, JBoss, Geronimo, or GlassFish
- Dynamic single-page applications (SPAs)
- Front-End technologies, including jQuery, AngularJS, Backbone.js, Ember.js, ReactJS etc.
- Server-Side technologies, such as Node.js, MongoDB, Express.js, etc.
- Mobile App Development through PhoneGap, React Native, etc.
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