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Java Geeks Discuss ‘The War for the Browser’ and the State of Java Modularization

Self-described “Java geek” nfrankel writes:

At the beginning of 2019, I wrote about the state of Java modularization. I took a sample of widespread libraries, and for each of them, I checked whether:

– It supports the module system i.e. it provides an automatic module name in the manifest

– It’s a full-fledged module i.e. it provides a module-info

The results were interesting. 14 out of those 29 libraries supported the module system, while 2 were modules in their own right.

Nearly 2 years later, and with Java 16 looming around the corner, it’s time to update the report. I kept the same libraries and added Hazelcast and Hazelcast Jet. I’ve checked the latest version…

Three full years after that release, 10 out of 31 libraries still don’t provide a module-compatible JAR. Granted, 3 of them didn’t release a new version in the meantime. That’s still 7 libraries that didn’t add a simple line of text in their MANIFEST.MF
Meanwhile, long-time Slashdot reader AirHog argues that “Java is in a war for the browser. Can it regain the place it once held in its heyday?

All major browsers have disabled support for Java (and indeed most non-JavaScript technologies). Web-based front-ends are usually coded in JavaScript or some wrapper designed to make it less problematic (like TypeScript). Yes, you can still make websites using Java technology. There are plenty of ‘official’ technologies like JSP and JSF. Unfortunately, these technologies are entirely server-side. You can generate the page using Java libraries and business logic, but once it is sent to the browser it is static and lifeless… Java client-side innovation has all but stopped, at least via the official channels….

How can Java increase its relevance? How can Java win back client-side developers? How can Java prevent other technologies from leveraging front-end dominance to win the back-end, like Java once did to other technologies?

To win the war, Java needs a strong client-side option. One that lets developers make modern web applications using Java code. One that leverages web technologies. One that supports components. One that builds quickly. One that produces fast-downloading, high performance, 100-Lighthouse-scoring apps. One that plays nicely with other JVM languages. What does Java need?
Spoiler: The article concludes that “What Java needs Is TeaVM… an ahead-of-time transpiler that compiles Java classes to JavaScript.”

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