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Java forever! 12 keys to Java's enduring dominance

Peter Wayner | Oct. 22, 2013
Haters and hipsters beware: This cross-platform curly-bracket relic never lost its app-dev mojo

Some of the trendiest languages have been moving away from curly brackets because maintaining them can be annoying. That may be true, but they're useful for new programmers who need to understand nested blocks. Curly brackets help the newbies unpack all that nesting.

There will also be some who want to push their own language, and in most cases, their pet language is more relaxed without the strictures and rules of Java. They have a good point, but they miss the fact that the simpler, cleaner syntaxes have their own dangers that become apparent later. Some find the belts-and-suspenders approach suffocating, but Java pushes better habits from the beginning. The neophytes can handle the relaxed and more dangerous constructs when they're better trained.

Key to continued Java dominance No. 4: (Close enough) cross-platform compatibility
Java wasn't the first language to target simple cross-platform compatibility, but it's been the most popular. That's not to say it's perfect — a missing library or an incompatible version will crash the code. You can't take your latest JRE 1.7 code compiled for a desktop with gigabytes of RAM and run it on a Java ME phone. It's not that compatible.

But Sun and now Oracle have done the best they can making cross-platform compatibility work most of the time. When it doesn't work, the reasons are usually understandable. If you use the right versions of Java and make sure there's enough memory, it will work. Java developers can use their desktop tools to create the code and move it to the destination, be it a phone or a server. If the compiler includes the right libraries and checks for the right versions, the code will run. That's invaluable.

Key to continued Java dominance No. 5: Sustained success on small chips
Java may never have built up a big following on the desktop, but it found a warm embrace in the mobile world — the market segment that happens to be exploding. The Android platform is built on Java from bottom to top, and it is now easily outselling the iPhone.

This dominance is not new. The slimmed-down version of the language and VM known as Java ME was widely used on many so-called feature phones, those almost-smartphones that number in the millions throughout the world.

When you mix them all together, Java's dominance is stunning.

Key to continued Java dominance No. 6: Blu-ray
Java was once called "Oak" and designed for the set-top boxes that Sun wanted to dominate. That didn't exactly work out according to plan, but Java managed to find a nice place in the living room. The Blu-ray standard is built around Java, and anyone who wants to add extra content to a Blu-ray disk must get out the version of Javac compiler.


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