Java flows from the browser to the datacentre

Java's 10th anniversary marks the evolution of Sun's programming language from a tool to write fancy interactive websites to a...

Java's 10th anniversary marks the evolution of Sun's programming language from a tool to write fancy interactive websites to a fully-fledged development platform for enterprise computing.

The product was launched in May 1995, when Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen and Sun Microsystems science director John Gage stepped onto a stage at Sun's SunWorld user conference to announce it would be available to the masses.

Java was a programming language that would allow developers to write a program once but have it run on multiple operating system platforms, a feature termed "write once, run anywhere".

Andreessen and Gage explained that these Java applications ran in a Java Virtual Machine - a special application, nicknamed a sandbox, that allowed them to run on any sort of computing device, independent of its operating system.

In other words, the Java program, termed an applet, could be delivered over the internet, or any network, and run on a PC, Mac, TV, network computer, or even a smartphone.

At that time, the entire Java technology team had fewer than 30 people, and included James Gosling (pictured above), considered to be the father of Java, Patrick Naughton, and Mike Sheridan. The team had been investigating embedding Java into telephones, lifts and trains, and was even talking to Time Warner about incorporating it into interactive TV.

Embedded Java did not take off as the developers had hoped, but the internet provided a better vehicle for the technology. The software soon became incorporated into the then common Netscape Navigator browser, as a technology with a small footprint that could run web applications on any hardware platform.

Some of the early Java applets that gained popularity were website banner ads, web-based forms, three-dimensional graphics, and simple games.

Ten years from its introduction, what started as a media-centric browser technology has transformed the IT systems of major companies, including large retailers and financial services companies.

Java technology has evolved to support mission-critical business computing through the use of web services - the ability to run standardised reusable components of code. It has achieved this most notably through the use of the Sun platform Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE).

Where Java has not seen such great success is in dynamic client environments, where rich content is driven to the desktop - so called "push technology".

Today, Java-based software runs on servers in large companies to monitor transactions and tie together data from existing legacy computer systems. Many companies are using Java on their internal websites to streamline communication and the flow of information between departments, suppliers and customers, and for "front-end" server processing of online applications and services.

There are now about four million Java developers and 1.75 billion devices run Java code.

Java at British Airways >>

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