How much and how fast should Java change?

| by Rob Thornton Follow 0 Followers on Jan 18, 2007. Estimated reading time: 1 minute |

Stephen Colebourne writes about the fear of change that many have expressed in the Java community. With significant changes being tossed around for Java 7 (e.g. closures), many developers are worried about the language changing or changing too fast. Coleburne states that Java isn't perfect and there are good reasons to change.

Colebourne argues that many of the common reasons given against change are either incorrect or not as strong as they are implied to be. He starts with the idea that Java was designed to be simple and thus should not change:

There is a commonly held view that Java was designed to be this simple, perfect language for all-known tasks... Java was originally designed for set-top boxes and applets. Yet today, it is probably the most widely used enterprise language, and applets are dead. Since the fundamental use-case has changed, why shouldn't the language?

Shai Almog counters in a comment to the post that Gosling has actually talked about simplicity being an important design choice. Coleboune takes on other arguments, from the idea that Java is the only language and it is perfect, to the idea that code and syntax are less important and we should be focusing on process, risk, testing, etc. To those who argue that the problems with generics are reason to stop changing, he replies:

The negative take on this is that we shouldn't change Java ever again because 'we might get another generics'. I believe that is a very reactionary point of view. So long as any change is well specified, and avoids weird corner cases, it should be fine. And the Java community should be testing that and enforcing it.

Some common responses to this include that not all changes to a language are equal in scope, and that the fear of another generic is less a fear and more a desire for the change to be fully integrated into the language before more changes come along. For instance, many third party libraries are not using generics and Java itself does not take full advantage of enums.

Perhaps the biggest reaction to Colebourne's post is that most developers are still working in 1.4 and would love to have some of the changes that are already out there. Mike sums this up well.

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