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Java at 25: Pluralsight's Teachers Weigh In

Oracle kicked off its celebration of Java's 25th anniversary, which arrived officially on Saturday, with ... you guessed it: online content. It's disappointing not to be able to celebrate the language and platform that is, let's face it, running world IRL. But Big Red mounted an able effort on its "Moved-by-Java" site with inspiring personal stories from its Java team and the larger Java community, many of which are genuinely inspiring. If you haven't already, be sure to check it out.

I was a bit ahead of the festivities last month when I talked with Rich Sharples, senior director of product management at Red Hat, about how Java had faired over the years compared with other technologies debuting in 1995. Feel free to check that out, too.

I don't have an equivalent lineup of stories and conversation to share, but I do have the answers to three questions the folks at online course provider Pluralsight put to their Java course authors -- and then shared with me.

What impact has Java had on the world and/or society?

Jim Wilson (https://twitter.com/hedgehogjim) in Warner, NH: "Java helped clear the way for creating bigger and more sophisticated systems more efficiently. Java and the accompanying JVM (Java Virtual Machine) empowered developers to focus on the business problem being solved rather than being bogged down in managing many of the underlying technical details required by previous programming languages."

Sander Mak (https://twitter.com/Sander_Mak) in The Netherlands: "Java is more than a technology: it also brought together a vibrant community of Java developers who share knowledge, build open-source tools, and move the world of software development forward. After 25 years, this community is still unique in its size and impact."

Kevin Jones (https://twitter.com/kevinrjones) in Bristol, UK: "Prior to 1995, [if you were] a developer on Windows, the predominant platform then and now, you had to be a C or a C++ programmer; similarly on Unix if you were writing server code. Then along came the web and this dinky language that many serious developers dismissed out of hand, letting us write these little toys called Applets with this promise of "Write Once, Run Anywhere." Looking back it's almost impossible to think of how we got from there to here. Java has become the dominant language in the enterprise with billions of lines of code running millions of server applications in tens of thousands of companies. Weirdly it's also gone back to its roots and runs on billions of devices. It's survived Sun's collapse and the takeover by Oracle; it's survived an early split with Microsoft and the incursion of .Net and is still the predominant language in the software world."

Jose Paumard (https://twitter.com/JosePaumard) in Paris, France: "The impact of Java on the software development community is tremendous. The 12M developers worldwide make it one of the most prolific languages along with C. And Java applications are everywhere, from the SIM cards that equip every single mobile phone on the planet to the largest applications running on the cloud. Besides that, along with Linux, Java was of the most prominent technology to promote Open source development, now adopted by everybody."

What impact has Java had on your career?

Wilson: "Java has been a major driver in my career for well over a decade. I began working in Java professionally back in 2008 as part of developing applications for the beta release of the Android platform. That early experience along with my relationship with Pluralsight have been major factors in the success I've been fortunate to experience as both a consultant and as an educator.

Mak: "I've been fortunate to work with a wide variety of organizations, ranging from governments, to banks, to Picnic, the online groceries start-up I'm currently at. They all use Java for their backend systems. Why? It offers the perfect balance between stability, performance, and continuous evolution. Working with such a versatile technology throughout my career allowed me to become an expert, while helping companies across many domains.

Jones: "Java has let me retire from full-time work early. I started doing Java development not long after it appeared as a language. That led to me teaching the language all over Europe and North America. I also spoke at numerous conferences including Java One where I met people from various publishing companies back when paper magazines were a thing. I wrote articles and columns on Java and segued that expertise into writing on-line courses for Pluralsight. I'm pretty sure that without Java I'd still be sitting at a desk somewhere working for somebody else getting very bored, rather than sitting at home working when I want and still interested in building new things."

Paumard: "For the past 25 years, Java shaped my professional life. I gave my first Java course at the university in 1998 and I am still doing that. Java made me travel the world from conferences to conferences, where I talk several times a year. I became a Java Champion in 2016 and have more than a hundred of hours of online courses. I worked for countless companies helping them to better write and organize their Java applications."

What is your prediction for the future of Java over the next 5 years? 

Wilson: "Java will continue to innovate and lead the way. Recent additions like microservice support and cloud-based services integration combined with a strong existing code base, rich APIs, and a well-established developer community will keep Java in the forefront of development for many years to come."

Mak: "In the coming years, Java will cement itself further as the platform for cloud applications. We can expect new features lowering Java's footprint and improving its already impressive performance even further. The pace of improvement for the Java programming language will keep increasing, ensuring Java's relevance for many years to come."

Jones "Some things are not going to change, Java will still be ubiquitous in the enterprise and still running on most of the world's phones. Some change we're already seeing, Java has always evolved, but very slowly, but now the release cadence has gone up and this is great, it means that new features are coming into the language at a much higher rate, and the language gets to be modernized. Java as a language is being challenged from within the ecosystem by languages such as Kotlin and externally by languages such as C# and Go, this is a good thing as it, again, forces the language to evolve. I can see the language becoming more functional and less verbose, we already see this with the use of the 'var' keyword. If you could take a Java developer from 25 years ago and put her in 2025 she'd be amazed at the way code is being written, the language continues to evolve to a state where that developer would find it completely alien."


Paumard: "Java will continue on its current path for the next 5 years. Several major projects are under very active development and since their development is Open source, we can see, week after week the progress of them. The Loom project will bring new paradigms in concurrent programming, leading to critical performance improvements for web servers for instance.  The Valhalla project will provide better ways to control how data is laid out in memory, bringing new performances for intensive data processing applications. But for me the most important of them is the Amber project, that will bring new ways of writing code and will have the same kind of impact on the way Java code is organized as the introduction of lambda expressions in 2014. Java 14, published earlier in March saw the first release of preview features from Amber and it was a great success."

Posted by John K. Waters on May 29, 2020