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Java Viewpoint: "Java Is Still the Mainstream, But..."

Java Developers Need to Look to Their Laurels and Start Innovating Again

The other day I was talking to a coworker about learning Ruby. He said that as a Java programmer the hardest part of learning Ruby was not the syntax nor the dynamic typing. Oh, he could write perfectly correct Ruby, sans semicolons and variable declarations. His problem was that he found himself falling back into his same old Java habits. He felt like he was missing something because his Ruby code always ended up looking pretty much like what he would have written in Java.

This is not a problem that is unique to Java or Ruby or even programming languages. We all have a comfort zone of techniques and habits, our ‘happy place‘ where we feel productive and comfortable. The trouble with the happy place is that if you stay in your happy place too long you will be miserable. The world will move on and there you will be, eyes tight shut, hands over your ears, rocking slowly as you repeat, “I‘m happy, I‘m happy.“

Is Java dead? The buzz at the last software conference I attended, a conference previously full of Java developers and talk, was all about Ruby. The web is filling up with talk about the ‘R‘ word. Yesterday an old friend of mine IM‘ed me to say that he had a new job and his boss wants him to do this Rails thing and did I think it was for real.

Is Java dead? No. Java is still the mainstream. It is blessed with a high performance VM that is installed darn near everywhere. There is an army of experienced Java programmers out there. But the Java world has been in the same happy place for way too long. We in the Java world have been hanging out in the same statically typed, framework driven, XML configured lair for too many years.

We need to start thinking new thoughts:

  • The key to Java is not the language, it is the JVM. If it runs on the JVM it is Java, no matter what the source language was. Ruby has dynamic typing and maybe that is a good thing? Well the Java world has Jython and Groovy and Rhino and Beanshell and soon JRuby. Why aren‘t we making more use of these?

  • One of the most common reactions to the elegance of Rails is “Oh, we could do that in Java.” Well, let us do so with haste, but let us also ask ourselves: Why didn‘t we think of this?

  •  As Bruce Tate has pointed out many times, why does all data taste better in XML? If there is a byte in a forest not wrapped in angle brackets, does it still convey data? Could we Java folks at least think before reaching for the JAXP?

Java isn‘t dead, it‘s probably not even that sick. But the mid life crisis is here and we need to decide if we are going to buy a red convertible or get down to really dealing with our problems.

More Stories By Russ Olsen

Russ Olsen is a senior software engineer at FGM in Reston, VA. he blogs at http://jroller.com/page/rolsen.

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Most Recent Comments
Maricel Nash 02/17/06 02:15:08 PM EST

Nice picture, Russ!!

JDJ News Desk 01/14/06 01:37:47 AM EST

'Is Java dead?' asks Russ Olsen. No, he answers himself; Java is still the mainstream, and blessed with a high performance VM that is installed nearly everywhere plus there is an army of experienced Java programmers out there. 'But the Java world has been in the same happy place for way too long,' Olsen contends, adding: 'We in the Java world have been hanging out in the same statically typed, framework driven, XML configured lair for too many years.'

Gary Renner 01/13/06 10:48:11 AM EST

Oh jeez, not another Java is dead story. Well, I guess the goal of any publication these days is controversy. The fact is that with an over 20% mindshare (according to tiobe.com) Java is the most popular programming language. Should we rest and get complacent? Sure, as long as we continue to build reusable libraries. The only real setback for Java has nothing to do with technology - its the feud with Microsoft. I think, with the failure of C# to gain much of a foothold, Microsoft needs Java.

What we should do is "assume" Java is the language of choice for most development and move forward confidently. The proliferation of languages and variants is too costly and distracting to indulge in. The only real alternatives at this point are c/c++ (too expensive) and vb (too proprietary and awkward) so stop the self doubt, get rid of confusion factors like XML languages or the latest special purpose languages and move on to create real usable, reliable and therefore indispensable libraries. Java isn't perfect but it has all the truly needed features and the popularity & portability to make it the low-risk choice for development. Just do it.

msuzio 01/10/06 01:58:47 PM EST

Java is still in incredibly heavy use in larger-scale systems and internal applications. It doesn't need to be "hip", "trendy", or "LAMP". It just needs to do a job, do it well, and be maintainable. It does that (and more), has still proven fairly easy to scale from small projects to very large, and is still a decent (though not terrific) language.

It also plays well with many other solutions, by virtue of numerous scripting languages which target Java bytecodes, as well as native code integration if you simply cannot get by without some piece of C code (although, there goes easy portability - one of the major benefits).

HerbertJind 01/10/06 12:51:07 PM EST

|| 'We in the Java world have been hanging out in the same statically typed, framework driven, XML configured lair for too many years.' ||

But why should frameworks be intrinsically bad?

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