Java: “The Report of My Death Was an Exaggeration”

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Java: “The Report of My Death Was an Exaggeration”

Explore the state of Java, from what could replace it to its current health status.

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Over the last few weeks, I’ve been pretty busy with Java events, which has given me plenty of opportunities to talk to people in the wider Java community. Since my last blog post, I’ve been to two Voxxed Days (Bristol and Zurich) as well as the Riga Dev Days, QCon London and JavaLand in Germany. All of these conferences have been very professionally organised with impressive attendance; literally thousands of people wanting to learn and talk about Java.

It’s great to still see developers with so much energy and enthusiasm for Java as it approaches its twenty-first birthday.

What Will Replace Java?

QCon London was particularly interesting because I got to attend my first “Open Space”. This is not to be confused with going for a hike in the mountains but is a form of open discussion with people of the same interests (in this case, Java). We started by putting questions into the middle of the circle and then, by a simple voting mechanism, ordered them for discussion. For me, one of the most provocative questions was, “What will replace Java?” The general consensus was that we were unlikely to see another big language of the likes of Cobol, the C languages, JavaScript or Java.

There are plenty of languages that have tried to improve on Java; mostly by avoiding the Java platform’s excellent record of backwards compatibility. However, none of them seem to gain enough traction to really threaten to surpass the currently popular languages in terms of adoption. There was some discussion about Go, but I pointed out that this is a language targeted at replacing C and C++ which are really intended for writing system software, not general purpose applications. It’s certainly true that there are a wide variety of languages in use, but many of those are what you could really describe as domain specific. Swift is a good example of this, as it has become quite popular but is really only applicable to developing iOS applications at this time.

A Healthy Prognosis

Further evidence of Java’s popularity was published last month in the form of the RedMonk Programming Language rankings for 2015. This is based on two metrics: Stack Overflow questions and lines of code on GitHub. Although this provides no more definitive an answer of language popularity than the TIOBE index it seems a reasonable approach. (I will take issue with one inclusion on their list: CSS, which to me is not a programming language). The good news is that Java was in the number two spot, just behind JavaScript (TIOBE puts Java at number one for March 2016). This led to a blog post from James Govenor (also of RedMonk) stating that “Java is Dead is dead” (hence the title of my own post).

In the past many people have prophesied the demise of Java, saying that it will soon to be replaced by things like C#, Ruby, Scala and so on.

I am happy to report that Java is alive and well!


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