Java is an all-purpose, object-oriented programming language. It also serves as a platform, enabling Java code to be executed on any computer powered by a Java Virtual Machine (JVM).
Initially, both terms were interchangeable because Java was the only language that ran on JVM. However, that is no longer the case; new languages such as Groovy, Scala, JRuby (an implementation of Ruby), and Jython (an implementation of Python) are written for execution on the Java platform.
Sun Microsystems was the creator of Java, releasing it in 1995. Subsequently, the company was acquired by Oracle Corporation, making Oracle the official owner of the Java SE platform.
Interestingly, Java was initially envisioned as a programming language that would run on consumer appliances, a concept we now know as the internet of things (IoT). One of the key features of Java is ‘write once, run anywhere’, enabling programmers to write code that one can compile for execution on any device. However, this was not the original reason for Java’s popularity. Instead, it was the rise of the world wide web; another early Java feature was its usage for writing applets. These small programs could be executed inside web browsers, giving Java a unique functionality that led to its popularity for writing many web applications.
Today, Java is an excellent first language to learn for people trying their hand at programming. It has been in mainstream use for over two decades and is well-established, with numerous excellent resources for learning it. It is also perhaps the most used language among programmers, making it easier for newbies to find mentors.
The Java language is open-source, as are many purpose-built Java tools, frameworks, and libraries. Developers can use many Java implementations for free, including OpenJDK, the open-source counterpart of Oracle’s proprietary Java Development Kit (JDK).
One everyday use of Java is in Android-powered smartphones; however, JVM is not used here. Instead, the source code is compiled explicitly for the Android runtime. While the Java code running on an Android smartphone may appear to be different from the code for a web application, it is the same source code.
Java’s ubiquitousness is apparent in that even tech giants such as Google and Amazon use it. It is better suited for creating large enterprise software solutions. While it can be (and is) used for smaller applications, it might be a little heavyweight for quick DevOps scripts.
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Simple: Java is easy to learn and understand. Its syntax is straightforward and hassle-free to write and maintain. Debugging the code is simple too. Apart from this, complex features of C and C++, such as explicit pointers, operator overloading, and storage classes, are not present in Java.
Platform-agnostic: Java programs are simple to develop and maintain across platforms. Code is written only once and then adapted to specific machines as required, regardless of the operating system, as long as Java Virtual Machine (JVM) support is present. This also makes it portable among platforms.
Secure: No explicit pointers reduce the security risks in Java. Each Java application has a security manager that enables users to define class access rules.
Automated memory management: This is one of the key features of JVM, allowing it to remove unused objects using the ‘automatic garbage collection’ process. This includes objects that are not used by programs or do not refer to anything.
High-level, stable, distributed: Java is human-readable and uses a simple syntax. Regular updates keep the language stable while providing a data-sharing mechanism across multiple computers. Java’s distributed capabilities are supported by remote method invocation (RMI), socket programming, and CORBA technology.
Efficient memory allocation: Java divides memory into two main parts–stack area and heap area. The memory space for any variable is provided by JVM from one of these areas.
Multithreading support: As a multithreaded language, Java allows multiple threads to run independently at once, thus maximizing CPU utilization and application performance.
Java is a standalone language that is more oriented toward programming. One can execute it in any instance of JVM or browser. Java objects are class-based, and one cannot make Java programs without creating a class. Its file extension is .java.
In Java, source code is translated into bytecodes that are then executed by JVM. The language supports multithreading and takes a thread-based approach to concurrency.
A June 2022 article by CodeGym pegs Java clients’ market share in the US at over 60% (approximately 64,000 businesses).
Here’s a list of the top companies that leverage Java in their day-to-day applications:
The Microsoft Edge browser is powered by Java. Apart from this, the software giant has a strong interest in the programming language, investing in its development to promote industry-wide advancements. A statement from the Microsoft website states, “Java at Microsoft spans from Azure to Minecraft, across SQL Server to Visual Studio Code […] and beyond! We use more Java than one can imagine.”
Known for dealing with tremendously high volumes of real-time data, Uber uses Java to handle requests and transfer data swiftly. The language helps the ride-hailing pioneer track its drivers and manage ride requests, allowing seamless data sorting and user matching.
Numerous parts of this social media for professionals are written using Java, with certain elements made with C++. Among other aspects, Java is key in LinkedIn’s search and analytics functions. It also helps resolve scale issues, allowing the server to operate swiftly while using fewer resources.
Java is the base of NASA’s immersive WorldWind application. This hyper-realistic virtual globe displays precise geographical information by using real images captured by satellites to create a 3D model of the planet.
And many more!
Apart from the tech giants mentioned above, Java is used by Netflix, Airbnb, PayPal, Google, Spotify, eBay, TripAdvisor, Pinterest, Intel, Slack, Groupon, Flipkart, and many other companies.
A well-known example is AngularJS, a prominent part of Google’s DoubleClick ad platform and a popular front-end framework.
Besides, Microsoft has adopted NodeJS and supports it on Azure Cloud, which has integrated Visual Studio compatibility for Node. Finally, Microsoft developed a version of Node for IoT applications.
In the beginning, Netflix relied on Java for most of its functionality. However, Java’s size and development time led to challenges, driving the streaming giant to move to the cloud and adopt NodeJS.
Node enables Netflix to break down its user interface into separate services. This distributed methodology enabled the company to minimize server load and boost service speed.
Like Netflix (and for similar reasons), PayPal overhauled its account overview page and adopted Node along with its normal Java development. This was a success, leading PayPal to use Node to create all client-facing applications.
Today, most sections of a PayPal user’s account run on Node, and the company has even created KrakenJS, its version of Express (the de facto standard server framework for Node).
Java is used for the back-end development of web applications and server-side applications. Web developers must be skilled in HTML and CSS, as well as have knowledge of APIs. Building a Java web application also needs the know-how of dynamic resources, including servlets, JavaServer Pages, and Jars.
Mobile app development
Numerous widely-used mobile applications, including Spotify and Twitter, are developed using Java. A Java developer should be well-versed in Android Studio, emulators such as vMac and Dolphin, and user interface (UI) design. Good-to-have skills include XML and application programming interfaces (APIs).
Enterprise applications for organizing and modeling business processes are developed using Java Platform, Enterprise Edition (Java EE).
Java developers have exciting career opportunities in gaming. The language is used to create cross-platform game versions without extra development costs. Java is also popular for creating 2D Android games. Developers must be familiar with gaming physics, multithreaded Java applications, and garbage collection.
Java is also used for desktop application development. These developers must be skilled in making widgets using tools like the Swing GUI toolkit. The abstract window toolkit (AWT) in the Java development kit (JDK) is used for creating cross-platform applications. Standard widget toolkit (SWT), IBM’s programming library, is also used for building desktop applications. SWT, combined with Eclipse RCP, is gaining prominence in this domain.
Java is popular for developing applications capable of executing multiple scientific calculations and mathematical operations, particularly due to its swift processing speed. Knowledge of Java with the CUDA toolkit is helpful here.
This role is responsible for server software, deployment, version control, testing servers & processes, build processes, and other functions. They undertake numerous critical duties, including deployment of updates, addressing technical issues, creating tools to minimize errors, enhancing user experience, and coordinating with the back-end.
Web application development
Web-based software applications include ecommerce shopping carts, interactive online forms, spreadsheet programs, word processors, photo & video editors, email clients, file converters, and scanning programs. Developers must be adept at tools such as Adobe AIR, ELECTRON, and jQuery.
Full stack development
These developers are capable of working on the front end as well as the back end.
They design the entire web application architecture and work with engineers on establishing features and are familiar with cybersecurity as well. Skills include Ruby, Python, PHP, Java, and .NET.
Front-end web development
These developers build the visual, user-facing aspect of websites. They must be skilled in HTML, CSS, and the basics of back-end development. Regression testing is a bonus skill here.
These professionals are responsible for designing applications and researching how people use them. Must-have skills include UI design tools, HTML, CSS, interface designing, and user experience designing.
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