25 Years of Java: Still as Popular as It's Ever Been
The Java programming language celebrated 25 years on May 23 this year. It was first released by Sun Microsystems in 1995. Two and a half decades on, it remains one of the most popular programming languages.
In 1991, James Gosling, an engineer at Sun Microsystems, began developing a new language that he initially called Oak. Later on, the language came to be known as Java. The purpose of developing this new language was to build a system that would enable a large network of interactive consumer electronic devices that could be managed from a handheld remote controller. The concept didn't excite the digital cable television industry at that time. Perhaps it was too advanced for them way back in 1995.
Developers began using Java, however, to develop applications for desktop computers. The Internet was beginning to catch on around the same time. In 1993, the World Wide Web became a public domain, thereby enabling the public to join in the fun. In 1995, the Pew Research Center reported that 14 percent of adults in the US were already "online." Programmers started using Java for web applications and it soon became the preferred programming language for apps.
Java was better suited for the Internet and enterprise application development than older languages, such as COBOL, C, and C++. It provided support for Internet protocols, such as HTTP. Java enabled easier and faster application programming than COBOL or C because of its object-oriented design, integrated libraries, and run-time error detection capability.
Still Going Strong
Twenty-five years after it was launched, Java is still among the top three programming languages in use across the world. Java's stability, consistency, versatility, innovation, and wide range of application are the key factors that still drive the language's wide-scale adoption across organizations, ranging from large enterprises to small businesses.
Let's run through some of the characteristics that have made Java so successful, as well as popular among programmers:
Java is designed to enable developers to "write once, run anywhere." Applications developed using Java work across platforms, operating systems, devices, and cloud environments so long as a Java Runtime Environment (JRE) is installed on the system. Java is widely used to write applications for mobile and desktop devices that can run on any operating system, including Windows, Mac, Linux, and UNIX, servers, mainframes, laptops, and mobiles.
Java's popularity is partly due to the fact that it's open-source, offering developers a vast number of open-source tools and libraries that enable them to build high-quality applications at lower cost. Also, the open-source factor has enabled developers to work on improving and building the language, thereby contributing to Java's development. Today, there is a large collaborative community of Java developers.
An object-oriented programming language enables processing in small easy-to-execute segments, thereby helping to make software design simpler and more efficient. With Java objects, programmers have the freedom to reuse generic code, as and when appropriate, instead of having to rewrite common code multiple times. Being relatively simple to understand, Java is easy to maintain and troubleshoot.
Simple to learn and developer-friendly
Java has an easier learning curve than some other languages. It is possible to develop familiarity with Java tools, syntax, and styles in a fairly short time. Developers who learn Java find it easier to learn other languages and can develop a wide range of programs.
High scalability is one of the key factors behind Java's adoption across products and environments, including IoT and cloud. This is one of the reasons why so many developers want to work with Java. Java's development is ongoing, with new features, security improvements, and capabilities added periodically. The language is ideal for building applications for the future.
Used for mobile technology
Java�s contribution to the evolution of mobile technology is significant. In the early years, Java was used to develop applications for Symbian OS, one of the older mobile operating systems. Then, Android developers started working with Java and a good part of Android was built using Java. Java was also used for most Android applications at that time. It is still one of the most popular languages for Android application development.
Being an extremely versatile language, Java is ideal for developing apps for the web as well as for mobiles, laptops, tablets, and other devices. Developers have access to thousands of API classes. Java Virtual Machines (JVM) can run on any OS.
Supported by a robust and constantly-expanding community
The collaborative global community of Java developers is a source of solid support and has made a significant contribution to Java's success. Thousands of developers work continuously to develop the language, sharing insights and offering guidance and feedback.
Take a look at some of the leading job sites and you'll find plenty of ads for jobs that require Java programming skills. Despite the emergence of many new languages, Java developers are among the most in-demand software professionals in the world today. According to Oracle, there were approximately 9 million Java developers at work across the world in 2017. The community is still growing.
The primary reason why Java skills continue to be highly sought after is its platform independence, which enables its use across different computer systems and environments. Also, Java developers have collaborative skills. They are able to work as part of a team with software engineers, web designers, and other professionals.
Java's compatibility assurance, scalability, and reliability have led to its widespread adoption across a diverse range of companies, including Amazon, Google, LinkedIn, and several large banks. Enterprise systems at many large organizations are built on Java. This has led to robust demand for skilled Java developers at these companies.
Isn't Java Easily Hackable?
Java has made considerable progress in security. Though security patches are released regularly and Java is more secure today than other older languages, such as C and C++, code written in Java can have vulnerabilities.
This normally happens when developers don't follow best practices. Vulnerabilities can be addressed by following best practices during the development stage and monitoring and auditing code throughout the lifecycle of an application or program.
Twenty five years since its first public release, Java shows no signs of fading away. It is still the preferred language for back-end development at a host of large enterprises, and is being increasingly adopted for developing cloud applications and software products for the future.