What's up with Java?
The other evening, a friend of mine starting bitching about Java. It isn't
too difficult to do, especially now. He is a highly intelligent individual
who can talk about the database theory as well as program firewall table
rules… but building things in Java is frustrating.
In his own words:
I am very very very disappointed in the Java community right now.
They have invented a thousand elaborate ways of making problems they are
intending to solve far worse.
App server incoherence and complexity, the excess of Jnn<n>
acronyms that don't describe anything meaningful, and the overall sensation
that Java development tools (at least as I read through it in the filter of
the jguru and theserverside) are a one big circle jerk.
If what I've surveyed is the best and the state of the art, it's
I agree. If someone wants to start building large scale projects in Java,
I'm not sure where I would point. I wrote him back a little "there-there"
empathy email and started with an inaccurate history of programming
Once upon a time, there was C, and it was good and we really had a good
time. However, the biggest failing was in the library and the lack of
standards. Everybody had one. So we got ANSI to help define one, and they
did (which was a big help), but they also bastardized the language in the
process. No big deal, it was still pretty good.
Then C++ came on the scene, and it had some very nice features, and while
it did have a somewhat standard set of class libraries (template aside), it
wasn't enough as it didn't standardize a lot of stuff like GUIs and whatnot
that were really important at the time C++ got popular.
Then Java came along, and along with defining the language, it specified
the base library as well. Fab. This was, during v1.1 times, the most
practical language to me. I think it inspired a lot of people… especially
since the web and internet were just taking off in a public way.
Pretty soon, groups like the XML Subgroup within Apache were building
reference implementation of their projects first in Java and then in other
languages. It seemed like a logical choice. Pretty soon, 3/4 of Apache is
Java projects… and some of these overlap. Significantly.
And now for some bad points against Java …
It needed to maintain some backwards compatibility. Java initially had
these "streams" for doing IO and they were pretty good, but didn't deal
with character encoding very well. So, we came up with "readers" to address
that. A reader can take a stream, but a stream can't take a reader.
Consequently the "streams" became deprecated. This is all fine and good
except that the rest of the library (and 3rd party code as well) that had
been built to accept a stream haven't been updated to take on a Reader.
This same thing has happened elsewhere, like with Date and Calendar, and
the Collections package. So a person new to Java will have to learn and
write two different ways of doing the same thing … one using deprecated
As the number of developers, companies and projects increase, the size
of this standard library also increases. This is nice on one hand in that
there is lots of code to take advantage of, but the downside is trying to
learn it all. At one point, I had it all down… I knew and used every
library… but not now. So a new person coming into Java would definitely
The internet, which fosters communication, can actually be quite
distracting. Everyone has a person style/taste for how web pages should be
done, so they all clamor for equal attention. A person new to Java will now
have to wade through these to find their own opinion as to what is the best
of breed. Eventually, you would think, most of these go away and the
winners will stay. But the problem with things like JSPs, is it might not
be the best (it's actually the worst), but because so many commercial
projects are based on it, we just keep putting bandages on it, instead of
killing it and starting with something better. Can you imagine that we are
now adding a server-side scripting language to JSPs which already has Java
as a scripting language … and we're doing this in web pages which
shouldn't have any code in them to begin with? Madness, I say.
How to proceed? That is a good question … There is a book that
echoes my sentiments, Better, Faster, Lighter Java. In here, he claims
that we often need to reexamine at things with fresh eyes and realize that
our "job" is to build things and not spend most of our time working on the
So I might start a riot here, but perhaps we can throw off EJB shackle and
check out Spring and Hibernate (read this article while
you're at it) … let's get rid of these complex JSPs and go back to a
simpler, more maintainable system, like Freemarker.
With all of the complexity in the world that is Java, I can now start to
see a clearer path through the jungle that began long before [last year's
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