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Java has been attracting communities of programmers for the past twelve years. Much of Java's appeal, however, is based on its ability to stay simple while at the same time incorporating more complex features. But the big challenge ahead for Java is how to maintain the success formula in the ever-changing world of the future.
Outside, the crisp and clear San Francisco sky is visible. It's 11:30 AM. I am inside Moscone center, hall amongst the masses of mostly-programmer, and very eager, visitors who are lined up and waiting for the exhibit doors to open for the first time. No this is not the same crowd that is just about to rush a U2 concert stage. But the energy and the enthusiasm within all of us—quietly—was just as ever-present. This is JavaOne 2007. Yes, we who are attending are all Java professionals eagerly interested to see what's new in the world of Java by visiting the exhibit booths and attending technical sessions, all the while collecting as many JavaOne souvenirs or T-Shirts to display in our office cubes or wear on casual-dress Fridays.
Java has been around and has successfully prospered for well over a decade now. I fell for it in early 1999 while completing my first introductory class in Java. What took me was Java's simplicity and ease of use as a programming language. Yes, no more "copy constructors" and no more "pointer arithmetic" for this dedicated C/C++ programmer. What has kept me loyal and very much interested for the past eight years, however, has been Java's evolving culture and its lively community—especially online communities.
Java's future success in my opinion, hinges not so much on how well it incorporates every new feature that our ever-changing world throws at it. But rather to the contrary: Java's future success hinges directly on how well it can keep complex structures and features off, keeping an overall balance by staying trim and simple while yet still appealing to new a generation of programmers that enter the work force every year. The main audience that Java needs to captivate in the future is not for the most part, I think, the more matured programmers who have grown to like Java through the years—me included. (The majority of us, more seasoned Java programmers, much alike an old friend, are willing to tolerate the oncoming new changes and forget about deprecated classes or methods while patiently learning new features with all their bells and whistles.)
The group of programmers that Java leaders need to pay attention to is for a large part the new waves of younger programmers that are just starting and that will have neither the patience nor the time to learn a somewhat complex language. That is why I strongly believe that simplicity and ease of use is still a key ingredient and a number one selling point essential to success and survival of any fifth generation language. To their credit, on an overall basis, Java leaders have managed to keep a balance so far. For example, by allowing scripting languages to enter as-is under the umbrella of Java, all script-enthusiasts have remained interested and loyal to the Java camp yet are able to still enjoy new script programming. Core Java is still core Java and JRuby is JRuby—a rather wise move.
What I saw today in the hallways of JavaOne today was a clear indication to me that Java's culture and community is live and well. As for its commitment to simplicity and ease of use, well, only future will tell. But so far despite my long list of grievances, and Java's maturity up to now, I believe, Java has delivered on its commitment to keeping simple and remaining easy to use. If you think there other factors that are essential to the future of Java feel free to post your feedback as I am sure we could all contribute to its future success.
|Arash Barirani is a developer with a taste for fast software and fast cars. He enjoys reading Artima.com, and likes to comment on questions that have no real answers. His favorite subject area is user interface design and performance bottleneck resolution.|