What Happens If Java Dies?

Can’t sleep…:-( So here’s one of the thoughts that started gnawing away at me, and that may let me get back to sleep if I post it: what happens if Java dies? if this posturing from Apple about dropping support for OS/X comes to anything…

One of the promises of Java was that it was cross-platform, of course. And for whatever reason(s), Steve Jobs prefers native, rather cross-platform, code running on his machines…

One of the tools I’ve been playing a lot with lately is based on Java, namely the desktop application Gephi, IBM’s Many Eyes is also Java application, though it runs as a Java applet/plugin in a browser. (Hmmm, applet. I bet that narks Jobsworth…) So if Java support on the desktop dies, I’ll be p*****d off…

When my first, sleep deprived thought of “who cares if Java dies, we can just move to cloud services” thought occurred, it was quickly followed by: “hmmm, but what if those cloud services make use of Java clients in the browser…?” The cloud maybe good for some things, but at the end of the day, we need to run clients of some sort.

So if Java dies, where do we run to – or more specifically, what do we run away from? Apple doesn’t like Flash much either (is the same true of Air?), and via YouTube, Google has also been looking for an alternative to Flash for delivery of video streams; Silverlight doesn’t seem to have many takers, and there are already more than a few applications I can’t run in a browser because I don’t run Windows…

So what is a sustainable cross-platform future? Running HTML clients/UIs and pulling on backend services and storage that do run in the cloud (which may even be Java…!;-)?

PS Just by the by, earlier this week I caught a glimpse of the application calls available from an emerging web operating system that appears to be well on the road to development:

Google's web operating system function calls

So can I now go back to sleep, please….?:-(

PS I did get back up to sleep, and woke up with two related half-remembered ideas in mind:
1) The GWT (Google Web Toolkit) “allow(s) you to write AJAX applications in Java and then compile the source to highly optimized JavaScript that runs across all browsers, including mobile browsers for Android and the iPhone”. So how general is the source Java that GWT can cope with?
2) Will we start to see more applications running in their own virtualisation containers, carrying just enough of an operating system of their own to let them do what the application calls for?

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

5 thoughts on “What Happens If Java Dies?”

  1. I guess you’re talking about client-side Java, right? About which I’m moderately sanguine, but that’s probably because I don’t have many fave applications of the sort you mention that rely on the runtime. But if Java were to die completely as a platform, so would many applications that have become essential to many companies – Solr/Lucene, for instance (on which Twitter and countless other sites depend).

    1. Yes – I was talking about Java on the client side. I suspect there’s so much heavy lifting on serverside using Java that it will have a long life, if only as a legacy language (cf. resurgent interest in Cobol as the old-guard who look after such systems retire;-)

  2. my guess is html5 (and associated languages) is set to replace java. javascript can now run on the server, so you have just one language for the cloud+client.

    it’s not the greatest programming language in the world, but canvas+svg+video+css3 should be able to do most things that flash/java manage at the moment.

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