Scripting languages such as PHP and Python--also known as "dynamic" languages--are simpler to learn than Java and are a popular choice among developers, particularly for building Web pages. Many people, including former Java devotees, contend that the rising use of scripting languages and the so-called LAMP stack of open-source components comes at the expense of Java.
Although clearly biased toward Java, Gosling, now the chief technology officer at Sun's Developer Products Group, isn't losing sleep over the issue. "It feels like we're only a third of the way through exploiting into what we can really do with Java. There's a lot of play in this puppy yet."
Gosling spoke to CNET News.com about the never-ending debate over programming languages, the bright side of being flamed and the future direction of Java.
Q: There is this ongoing discussion about the merits of Java as a programming language. Many people say that scripting languages are replacing Java. So, is Java's use waning? Is it aging ungracefully? Is it getting old and crusty?
Gosling: Well, there's a part of me that actually wishes that was true--that would make my life a lot easier. But from everything I see, things like survey data from Evans Data, and just the enormous uptake we keep getting of Java and all the related technologies around it, there's no detectable slowdown.
I know there's a lot of people who wish there was a slowdown. For me the most exciting thing is the way that the excitement is sort of diversifying.
Why did you say you wish it would get old and crusty?
Gosling: Well, I've been doing this for a while, and there are times when I think, "You know, it would be nice to be able to take a vacation."
It's funny, looking at the blog replies (to his recent posting), I try really hard to steer away from even vaguely controversial topics. But because of who I am, it doesn't take very much before the blogosphere erupts in craziness.
At one level, I thought I was trying to be very laid back and innocuous, and people were inferring insults when there was none there. But the sort of flipside of that is that there's also a huge number of folks who came strongly to my defense. I thought that was quite heartwarming.
I think one of the best indicators for me these days (of Java's health) is these developer education programs we do around the world. They're just getting bigger, and more and more people are showing up--particularly in places like China and India and Brazil, they are mob scenes.
Let's talk about some of the points that have been brought up. Evans Data had a study showing that use of Java has been going down in North America for the past two-and-a-half years, although it's been going up in Asia. PHP and other scripting languages are getting more popular and robust. And if you look at Web 2.0 companies, it seems that lot of them are using AJAX, which involves scripting.
Right. Then there are books like "Beyond Java," which says that Java is great for some things but for Web development, other development languages and frameworks are better. So, what's your reaction to that? Do you think that it's well-founded?
Gosling: Well, there's bits of both. When you take a look at something like PHP, which is totally focused on doing just Web development--if you're just generating a Web page, PHP is actually pretty good. It's almost a clone of JSP (Java Server Pages), pretty much is exactly a clone of JSP.
The place where I think it's getting messy is when you go beyond something that is purely Web page generation. As soon as you start doing much analysis or integration with other kinds of computation, it gets difficult because something like PHP is very focused on Web page generation.
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