Following on from our post about JavaScript being the new “must have” skill for developers, we wanted to write in more detail about the differences between the two. Many think that they are very similar as they have similar names, but this isn’t the case at all.

Firstly, it’s important to realise that JavaScript is not part of the Java platform, despite the similarity in name. JavaScript was developed originally by Netscape back in 1995. Whilst Java also first appeared earlier in the same year, it was developed by Sun Microsystems (since acquired by technology corporation Oracle) as a component of the Java Platform (Java 1.0 [J2SE]).

Language Differences

History aside, there are some real differences to take note of, the most important being that Java is a compiled language, whereas JavaScript is an OOP scripting language.

  • Java (Compiled) – this is somewhat a vague term that means the language is “compiled” to an intermediate binary form called JVM byte code. It does not compile straight to executable machine code, the JVM byte code is then interpreted to run the program in use.
  • JavaScript (OOP scripting language) – OOP = Object-Oriented Programming. This means that elements inside a program are structured to combine data and functionality. It does not need to be pre-compiled to run, instead runs straight from the text without changing to another format first.

Real World Uses

In terms of versatility, they both have their benefits. Both are used in many web applications and platforms, from desktop computers to mobile phones. However, their differences in design and capabilities mean they are used for different processes.

Java is primarily used on the server-side of the web, such as back end servers, Android development and big data projects. JavaScript is most typically used on client-side (front end) processes, such as HTML pages, search boxes, games and apps.

If you use the internet, a smartphone or a computer, then you’ll have used websites, apps and programs that utilise both languages. For example, big users of Java include Facebook, Google and WordPress. Big users of Java include eBay, Twitter and Facebook (as well as their related apps). Facebook also user JavaScript for their front-end experience, as well as WordPress and Google.

Learning the Language

Many people think one language is easier to learn than the other, which is true to an extent as JavaScript is simple – it uses a basic text editor and a browser. However, the Java library is extensive and well developed, so whilst on the face of it it is a “harder” language to get to grips with, once you understand the core language and library, it is just as easy to work with.

The decision to work with either language will be based a lot on your end goals – if you are working with a lot of back-end systems, data or development then Java may be the better option, even if the learning curve at first seems steep. JavaScript developers, however, are in need for front-end development.