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Why the 'Java Stigma' Part 4

(previous entries for the 'java stigmata series' :-) here: one, two and three).

Okay, the rant of the day is about expectations.

IMO, with software as with everything else, expectations are everything. Example: remember the hype around the segway? Weren't you a tiny bit disappointed when you read that it was just a glorified scooter? Sure, it looks cool, and it might even be useful (I have my doubts, I'd much rather see people walking more than riding around in things that will actually have a high change of hurting pedestrians, at least until "segway-enabled" cities appear. And let's not even talk about the price and what does it mean in terms of its user demographics). Another example of ultra-hype was Star Wars Episode I. Anyway, besides the point. What I'm trying to say is, once you hype something enough, there is nothing that can match the hype. Reality will always be more boring and mundane than our imagination.

Java, I think, suffered from way, way too much hype at the beginning. When you hype something too much (or when the hype takes a life on its own) it becomes impossible to deliver what people expect. If the reality doesn't even match the basic promises (as was the case withJava in the beginning, since until JDK 1.1 Java wasn't really adequate to build client applications that could create an effective alternative) then what you get is backlash. The hype turns around, and suddenly it's anti-hype, the perception is that whatever you were hyping will never work again.

Java has had to dig itself out of its own hype-created hole in the past few years. It's incredibly common to hear that Java is not useful to do client-side apps, that it's slow, and so on. This of course doesn't match reality, but the anti-hype persists. In the case of Java the anti-hype was so bad because the hype was incredible: it even got to the point where people were being told the future was a JavaStation and not a PC.

But... I for one think that this has actually been good overall. Java hasn't been killed by the anti-hype, since Sun has kept it going, and since it's automatically considered an underdog it has drawn the community around it much closer.

So I think that as long as we keep expectations in line with reality for the future, Java will actually become more than a little relevant. At some point, it won't matter whether something is written in Java or not. We are really close to that now. Morpheus, for example, is written in Java. So are many versions of Gnutella, such as Limewire. So is ThinkFree. And the only people who care about that are those that should: IT people that will see the benefits of being able to deploy the same app in any environment, of lower costs, etc, and of developers (both app- and custom-developers) that will see their lives made easier by the superior programming semantics and the qualities of Java.

As long as the expectations are kept in line this time, Java has a lot more things going for it. The day Java becomes invisible (and thus un-hyped), but irreplaceable, is the day Java will have won. But that's nothing new, is it? :-)

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on January 6 2003 at 11:33 PM

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