Java vs JavaScript: Full Comparison

Java and JavaScript have nearly identical names, both were first released in 1995, and both have early ties to the Netscape browser. These, and superficial similarities in the code of both languages, have led to a lot of confusion over the last two decades about the differences between the two programming languages, with many wondering if there are speed or performance reasons to use one over the other.

In fact, though, Java and JavaScript have almost nothing in common with one another. Java is an object-oriented programming language that is primarily used to design standalone software applications that can run on many different operating systems. JavaScript is a browser-based scripting language used to create client-side applications that run in a web browser.

Javascript code
Program code Javascript, PHP, HTML, CSS of site. Web development. Source code script. Programmer workflow

Java vs JavaScript: Side by Side Comparison

ItemJavaJavaScript
What it isObject-oriented programming language designed to create software that runs on as many platforms as possibleScripting language designed to run in web applications and on websites, rather than standalone software
NameJavaJavaScript
First release1994 (1.0a)
May 23, 1995 (public release)
December 4, 1995
Latest Stable ReleaseJava SE 17 (September 2021)ECMAScript 2021 (June 2021)
Influential DevelopersJames Gosling, Mike Sheridan, Patrick NaughtonBrendan Eich
Open ProjectYes, Open SourceYes, Open Standard

Java vs JavaScript: 5 Must Know Facts

  • JavaScript’s speed is faster than Java
  • JavaScript is mostly used for client-side scripts, while Java is used for server-side development
  • Java and JavaScript both got a lot of their popularity from inclusion in the Netscape browser
  • JavaScript supports dynamic typing and other features
  • Java runs on many operating systems due to a move away from platform-specific dependencies
  • JavaScript is weakly typed, while Java is strongly typed

Java: The Complete History

The project that would become Java started development at Sun Microsystems in early 1991 as a way to enable interactive television programming. James Gosling, the primary developer at SUN, focused on creating a programming language and environment that could run on as many platforms as possible without a heavy need for dependencies. Gosling also used syntax that is similar to C++, realizing that many programmers would already be able to code in that language. The project went through several name changes, starting as Greentalk and then becoming Oak before settling on Java. The first launch of Java was in May of 1995 and an annual Sun Microsystems conference, where it was also announced that Netscape, a popular web browser, would support the technology. As a result, web browser uses of Java which required a Java “applet” to run became very popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

java
Java is an object-oriented programming language designed to create software that runs on as many platforms as possible.

JavaScript: An Early Web Star with a Confusing Name

Much like Java, JavaScript’s creation also has its origins in the mid-1990s and has ties to Netscape. There, however, the similarities end. In early 1995, Brandon Eich began work at Netscape on a project to implement a scripting language called Scheme that would run directly in the browser. After Netscape announced its collaboration with Sun Microsystems on implementing Java, the project shifted slightly and Eich was tasked with writing a new scripting language, instead. The result was JavaScript, designed and written from scratch in a mere ten days in May of 1995.

JavaScript is a programming language.

Java Today

In 2006, Java was released as open source software. In 2011, Oracle acquired Sun and took on what they describe as the “stewardship” of Java. As a result of changes in web browsers and development at Oracle, Java today has shifted almost entirely away from use in browsers and the web. Instead, most uses of Java take place standalone applications written in the Java runtime environment (JRE), an IDE that has more than 850 million installations on computers. Although many falsely think Java is dead due to its removal from browsers, the truth is that Java is still a popular language for the same reasons Gosling had in mind when he designed it in the early 1990s.

The Changing Face of JavaScript

After its release in 1995, JavaScript rapidly gained in popularity. Its rise has continued in the 25+ years since, and JavaScript is used on nearly 97% of all websites today. Its increasing presence has been accompanied by continuing development, primarily through the ECMAScript language specification. This specification has been maintained by ECMA International since 1996 and has been an ISO standard since 1998. ECMAScript defines the qualities of JavaScript and other scripting languages, including JScript.

Java vs JavaScript: Which One Should I Use?

The question of whether to use Java or JavaScript is a common one. Many wonder about the performance and speed tradeoffs or ask if it is easier to code in one language or the other. In reality, the way to figure out the answer to this question is to determine what you’re trying to do. If you are writing a standalone piece of software and want it to run independently of operating system, Java is your best choice. On the other hand, if you are trying to write a lightweight plugin that runs in a web browser, you will almost certainly want to use JavaScript.

Java vs JavaScript: Full Comparison FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is Java vs JavaScript?

Java is an object-oriented programming language created to require almost no dependencies, making it a great general-purpose programming language that runs on as many platforms as possible. JavaScript is a programming language designed to be used in websites and web applications rather than in standalone applications or other software. The significant differences between Java and JavaScript make it difficult to compare speed, performance and other critical factors between the languages.

How are Java and JavaScript Typed?

Java is strongly typed, meaning variables need to have a defined data type. JavaScript is the opposite, being a very weakly typed language that does not pay much attention to variable types.

Are Java and JavaScript the same?

No, Java and JavaScript are completely different languages. JavaScript is a lightweight scripting language, while Java is an object-oriented programming language.

Is Java or JavaScript better?

Java and JavaScript are better for different things. JavaScript, which is supported by all modern browsers, is the best language to learn for web development. Java, on the other hand, is no longer supported by any supported browsers.

Is Java easier than JavaScript?

Because Java and JavaScript are so different, it’s not really possible to say which is easier. Instead, both excel at different things. However, if you’re familiar with object-oriented programming languages, you’ll probably find Java fairly easy. On the other hand, if your background is in scripting languages like Perl, JavaScript might make more sense to you.

Do I learn Java or JavaScript first?

Because Java and JavaScript are very different languages, you don’t need to learn one before you learn the other. Knowing the syntax of Java will help you understand JavaScript a bit better, and the same is true of knowing JavaScript syntax before you approach Java. Outside of that, there is no need to learn one language first or even to learn both at all.

Is Java a dying language?

Java is definitely not dying. Oracle continues to release Java updates, with the latest subscriber-purchased versions confirmed as being supported until at least 2030. A sign of Java’s popularity can be seen on GitHub, where there are more than 5,000,000 open source projects written in the language as of November 2021.

Is JavaScript a version of Java?

Despite the fact that both languages have the word “Java” in them, they have nothing to do with one another. JavaScript shares some superficial similarities with Java in terms of its syntax and standard libraries, but that’s the only thing connecting them.

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