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Java vs. JavaScript: Contrasted and Compared

Java and JavaScript are two of the most popular programming languages in the world. Their names are similar, too. So you may be wondering: how do they compare? While they have a similar name, Java and JavaScript are two distinct languages, used for unique purposes.

In this guide, we’re going to talk about Java and JavaScript. We’ll discuss each language, how they are similar, and what differentiates them.

What Is Java?

Java, developed by Sun Microsystems in 1995, is a general-purpose programming language. This means the language was developed without one single use case in mind. As a result, Java is used for a variety of purposes. Java is object-oriented, like Python, C++, and other languages. This principle means you can store similar data in objects.

Java is everywhere in the technology industry. Some game developers use Java. The Android platform was developed using Java and, by extension, Android apps use at least some Java in their code. Java can process the result of a web form.

The Java language was written with C and C++ in mind, two languages with more verbose syntax. A big aim for the language was to use a syntax that is more “friendly” (easier to understand), which would improve the experience for developers.

What is JavaScript?

JavaScript is one of the three foundational languages used in web development, alongside HTML and CSS. The JavaScript language lets you implement interactive and dynamic features on a website. If you have ever seen a page that changes when you click a button or a dropdown box that appears when you click an arrow, for example, you have seen JavaScript in action.

JavaScript has become essential, as more websites are designed with interactive features in mind. Across the Internet, you will find sign-up forms that show a loading wheel when you click “sign in” or forms that show a message when you submit them. Without JavaScript, these features would not be possible.

Java vs. JavaScript

Both Java and JavaScript are programming languages. They both contain the word “Java.” However, despite this similarity, Java and JavaScript are quite different. To compare Java and JavaScript, we are going to look at four areas:

  • Mobile development
  • Web development
  • Application development
  • Architecture

Mobile Development

Both Java and JavaScript are used for mobile application development. Java is often used to create applications with Android, which was built on Java. If you want to become an Android app developer, knowing Java is incredibly useful. But Java is not used exclusively for Android application development. Kotlin, too, is used to develop Android apps.

JavaScript can also be used to develop applications, but you don’t normally use JavaScript itself for this purpose. Rather, you use a JavaScript framework. The React Native framework, an extension of React (another JavaScript framework) lets you create “native” applications for mobile devices. React Native is useful because it allows developers to use their existing JavaScript and React code to create an application. 

Web Development

Java and JavaScript are both used in web development but to different degrees. JavaScript was designed for web development. In fact, you would struggle to find a website that does not use JavaScript at least to some extent on the modern Internet. JavaScript powers interactive features, like elements that appear when you click on something, forms, and graphs.

JavaScript code can run on the front end and the backend of a website. The front end is the part of a website that a user sees whereas the backend is the hidden “brains” behind the site. Java, too, can run on the backend to process forms and other data. But Java cannot make interactive features on a web page as JavaScript can.

Desktop Application Development

Both Java and JavaScript are used for desktop application development. But, Java was designed for desktop applications whereas JavaScript was designed for the web. Popular applications for the desktop, such as Minecraft, are built on Java. You would struggle to find a computer, powered by Windows or macOS, that does not have Java installed.

JavaScript has recently been used for application development thanks to Electron, a technology that lets you run a web application in a desktop container. JavaScript itself is not usually used for desktop application development but Java is.

Architecture

Java and JavaScript have different syntaxes. Java is a compiled programming language. This means your code must be read by a compiler before it is run by your computer. JavaScript, on the other hand, is written in text. Your browser does not need to compile JavaScript code.

In terms of programming architecture, Java and JavaScript both support object-oriented principles. This means that you can create blueprints for data using classes which can then be implemented by objects. However, JavaScript classes are syntactic sugar; they are another way of doing something that was already implemented in the language. This is not the case in Java, where classes are a foundation of the language.

In addition, JavaScript implements functional and procedural code alongside the object-oriented paradigm. This is not the case with Java, which is mainly object-oriented.

Salary Prospects for Java and JavaScript

Both Java and JavaScript are sought-after skills. As a result, knowing one of these two skills will help advance your career prospects in a technical role. According to Glassdoor, the average Java developer earns $79,137 per year in the US. The average front end web developer, who will almost certainly use JavaScript, earns $76,929 per year. 

As you can see, both Java and JavaScript pay well in the job market.

In terms of popularity, the 2020 Stack Overflow Developer Survey ranks JavaScript as the most popular technology. Java comes in fifth place on the list, which shows that Java is by no means obscure. Both languages are incredibly popular and as such you will have no trouble finding other developers who know either of these skills.

The Bottom Line: Java vs. JavaScript

Java is mainly used for application development, either on mobile or desktop devices. JavaScript was designed for the web and is one of the three primary languages used for web development. While both languages have “Java” in their names, they have different purposes and architectures.

The decision of whether to learn Java or JavaScript depends on what you want to do in your career. If you want to become a desktop application developer, knowing Java is probably a good bet. You could use JavaScript for desktop application development, too, although this is not as common of a use case for the language. If you want to become a web developer, JavaScript is a must-learn language.

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