What is Java?
When developers first started working on Java, they didn’t have the internet in mind. Rather – they were thinking about cable TV service. This was, by the way, back in the early 1990s and both Cable TV and The Internet wasn’t quite as advanced as it is today.
The developers were looking for a way to advance the technology of those days, create some kind of interactive television programming. To make a long (and probably boring) story a bit shorter – turns out it was a bit too advanced for its time. At least for Cable TV programming.
Around this same time, The Internet was starting to get popular. As more and more people were starting to go online for the first time, developers were looking for new ways to make The Internet more interesting … more interactive. Keep in mind that in the early days, The Internet was text only. Then, it was just text and pictures (or graphics). The technology that allows us things like Facebook or YouTube were still a long way off.
One of the major problems computer programmers faced was that programs made for one type of computer wouldn’t work on others. If you wanted your program to run on more than one type of computer, you’d have to make another version. If there were only one or two types of computers, that would be a hassle, but not necessarily a major complication. With many types of computers – you get the idea.
There were numerous ideas about how to design programs or applications that would run on more than one platform. One of those ideas was to create a new type of program not designed any particular operating system. Then, all they would have to do is create a single plug-in for all the various types of computers so they could run that program.
And this is where Java comes in. While Java didn’t work with the Cable TV technology at the time – it would be perfect for The Internet. Anybody could design a program for Java. Then, all anyone had to do to run that program was to install the Java runtime application on their computer.
Java gained popularity in part because it allowed internet programmers (or designers) to create interactive content. It wasn’t quite Facebook or YouTube, but at that time, anything other than boring text on a page with a few graphics or pictures was a pretty big deal.
What’s the Problem?
Java has had its share of problems since it was first introduced in the Netscape web browser (then later in other browsers). One of the biggest though is that because it was able to run on just about any platform, it was a pretty big target for hackers.
And Java has had its share of security flaws and exploits.
You may have seen stories in the news lately about a major security flaw with the latest version of Java. Sun Microsystems eventually released an update to fix … well, part of the vulnerability – but that didn’t exactly solve the problem.
It’s kind of sad, but there are a bunch of people (including News Anchors) who … when they hear about a new vulnerability that could affect their computer … they want to run screaming into the street afraid that their computer is about to blow up … or that some hacker is about to steal all their password or banking information from their computers … or, worse still – that this new exploit is going to change all those cute cat videos on YouTube into Kathie Lee Gifford’s music videos.
Please … don’t get me wrong here! These vulnerabilities and exploits are kind of a big deal. Just … please don’t panic. (And hopefully with a decent anti-virus program and firewall – and a bit of common sense – you should be just fine.)
The End of Java?
There are those out there who are saying that Java’s days are coming to an end. They say it is too vulnerable, not needed anymore, so it should just go away.
The problem with this is that Java technology is in a bit more than just your computer. There are a lot of other devices, from smartphones, MP3 music and video players … even things like DVD or Blu-Ray players can (and do) run Java apps.
And, yes – some of the Java vulnerabilities can affect your Blu-Ray player, too.
When Java first came out, it allowed web developers and designers to do a bunch of stuff that couldn’t be done without it. Since then, though, technology has come a long way and pretty much all that stuff is possible (and I can probably say it’s easier) without using Java.
Do You Need Java on Your Computer?
Now, that’s a good question.
There are a lot of people out there claiming that your computer doesn’t need Java installed anymore, so everyone should just uninstall it. Now, if you don’t need Java – by all means, go ahead and get rid of it.
There are still some fairly popular programs that need the Java stuff to be installed in order to work. These days, most of them are Open Source (free) programs, such as LibreOffice, OpenOffice, or ThinkFree Office.
Many other, older programs also require Java. However, many of them – if you upgrade to a more recent version, the Java requirement goes away.
And there are a bunch of games, too. Mostly older ones, but…
If you are debating whether or not to get rid of Java, I might suggest something first: Make up a list of programs you have installed on your computer and using Google, check to see if any of them require Java. If you run across one, check and see if there are non-java alternatives.
Or, you can just go ahead and remove Java from your system. If, at some point, you find you have a program that does require Java – you can search for alternatives then. (Or, reinstall java if you absolutely need to.)