Java is a server-side programming language that’s widely known, popular for enterprise-level applications, and ideal for high-traffic sites that need room to grow. It’s also a core language of Google’s Android mobile application development, which brought it back onto developers’ radars in a big way.
But, Java is much more than just a language—it’s the sum of many tools, collectively known as The Java Platform. This robust, open-source development environment includes libraries, frameworks, APIs, the Java Runtime Environment, Java plug-ins, and Java’s Virtual Machine (JVM). In short, developers have everything they need at their fingertips to build Java web systems and applications.
“Write once, run anywhere” is Java’s motto—and that compatibility remains a major selling point. It was first released in the mid-1990s, but its current version has come a long way since. It’s powerful, portable, and excellent for scalability, which makes the platform perfect for sites that have to accommodate rapid growth—a reason Twitter migrated much of its server-side code to Java after it outgrew the Ruby on Rails framework.
But even with the rise of slick, interpreted languages like Python and Ruby, which let developers do more with a lot less, how has Java evolved to remain relevant?
Advantages of the Java Platform
- Speed and scalability. Because Java frameworks can outperform other languages and frameworks like Ruby on Rails in terms of speed, Java is great for large-scale websites. If you’re looking to streamline your business goals into a beautifully developed application, Java is an excellent choice. Twitter also shifted its search engine from Ruby on Rails to a Java server, and has moved more of its back-end stack to the Java Virtual Machine based on performance issues.
- Android mobile app development. Java is the core language in which Google’s Android apps are written. The Android build tool, Gradle, is written in Java, and the Android operating system itself is based on Apache Harmony, a reverse-engineered implementation of Java class libraries.
- The Java Virtual Machine (JVM). Java is platform-independent, thanks to the JVM, an abstract computing machine that converts Java from source code into machine code. Machine code makes Java readable by whatever platform it’s running on—something other languages require a compiler to do. JVMs are just one aspect of the Core Java platform, and they’re everywhere: browsers, cell phones, servers, and desktop computers.
- It has an excellent development ecosystem. Java’s libraries, frameworks, JVM, integrated design environments (IDEs), and APIs all support development at every level. In particular, IDEs like Eclipse have vastly simplified coding with Java, while Core Java technologies like the HotSpot JIT (just-in-time) compiler and Java’s high-powered APIs also leverage its strength and meet enterprise-level server needs.
- A big community of developers. This means excellent documentation and the support that comes along with it.
- Consistency between versions. Java doesn’t change a lot between versions, unlike a script like Ruby that requires more software maintenance when the underlying platform shifts. Java is easy to maintain and forward compatible with its future versions.
- Object-oriented to the core. Java is one of the few languages that is close to 100% object-oriented, with all the benefits of object-oriented programming: easy development, modular software, flexibility, and extensibility.
- Hiring pool. It’s easy to hire a Java developer because it’s one of the most widely known languages to this day. Also, Java is easy to learn, especially for developers with a C or C++ background.