What is the difference between Java and JavaScript?

Published on 23 May 2016

Reading time 5 minutes

Web development: So, you're wondering what the differences are between Java and JavaScript, and would rather no longer confuse them? Definitions, distinctions, content creation... In this article, we reveal all! 

Java and JavaScript (or JS) are two different programming languages. As a neophyte, you might think that "Java" is short for "JavaScript." Not quite! That would be like saying that "ham" 🍖 is short for "hamster." 🐹


What they do have in common is that they're both languages derived from another language: the C language. Java and JavaScript have the same basic structure. Apart from that, we notice major differences both in their operation and use.

What kind of programming language is Java?

Officially presented in 1995 at SunWorld, Java is a programming language created by two employees of Sun Microsystems (James Gosling and Patrick Naughton). Java is now owned by Oracle, which bought Sun in 2009.

Java is a language that must be compiled. In short, it must pass through the JVM (Java Virtual Machine) to be interpreted by the "machine" afterwards.

What type of programming language is JavaScript?

Created by Brendan Eich in 1995 in just 10 days for the Netscape Communications Corporation, JavaScript is a programming language that was inspired by several other languages, including Java. Since 1997, JavaScript has become a trademark of Oracle. Yes, that, too.

JavaScript is said to be an "interpreted" language because it's directly read and translated as the program is executed. JavaScript is mainly used through your web browser. But in recent years, it tends to be used outside of Firefox, Chrome, or Safari, to name a few.

Java / JavaScript: two distinct programming languages

What are the main differences between Java and JavaScript?

Putting aside their language "types" and the fact that JavaScript is not part of the Java platform, we can add other notable differences between these two languages: 

Java / JavaScript: typing

JavaScript has weak typing while Java has strong typing. Typing a variable consists in identifying the type of data that the variable contains, such as character strings, integers or commas, a boolean (data allowing to indicate a true or false state), etc. 

Java / JavaScript: different uses and purposes

These two languages are not used for the same reasons or purposes.

JavaScript is a web language recommended for applications and websites. This language—historically considered more "creative"—is therefore dedicated to the development of applications called "front end." It's been growing for several years, and it's getting harder to completely avoid. For JavaScript, there's a large number of frameworks and libraries, so it may seem more complex at first glance to get started in this language. Since the arrival of NodeJS, JavaScript has permitted development of server-side applications dedicated to back-end development. Combined with the diversity of front-end frameworks, this new strength of JavaScript is the origin of the boom that JavaScript has experienced in recent years. To cite a few examples, applications such as Netflix, Discord, Airbnb, Tesla, BBC, and PayPal are all coded in JS!

Java is a programming language basically intended for embedded applications—devices not considered as computers with limited resources (memory, hard disk), such as tablets, on-board computers, etc. Known for its stability, it was also quickly used for server applications requiring high reliability—payment servers, for example. Amazon, Facebook, eBay, and LinkedIn, as well as other big names, have all used or still use Java. It's also considered the native language for Android mobile applications and offers broader features and options than other languages for this type of deployment. As with JavaScript, different frameworks based on this language exist for facilitating development with Java. Java Enterprise Edition, commonly called JEE, recently supplanted by its evolution Jakarta Edition, is the best known. But it tends to be less and less used in companies for the creation of new projects than Spring, which greatly facilitates development of monolithic web applications, or for the deployment of REST API servers.

Can we use Java and JavaScript at the same time?
Since Java allows developers to create classic web applications, it's always been possible to use JavaScript to embellish the application and make it more dynamic. In a more contemporary approach, it is also common to see a JavaScript front end application consuming data delivered by a Java-coded API Rest server. A very common duo is that of Java with Spring and Angular.

So... Why use the term "Java" in JavaScript if these two languages have nothing similar except being inherited from the C language?

Initially, JavaScript was called LiveScript. Its name was changed to JavaScript. Maybe to take advantage of the notoriety of the Java language? Who knows!

Note that another language has emerged for some time: TypeScript. It's a derivative of JavaScript, but it must be "transpiled," or transformed into JavaScript to be interpreted. Its advantage is that it is strongly typed. It can be considered as the crossroads of the 2 programming languages presented in this article: Java & JavaScript. It aims to take the best of both languages.

In short: what are the differences between Java and JavaScript?

By now, you've understood that Java and JavaScript basically share the C language as their common origin, but beyond that and as with most other programming languages, they each have their own usefulness and drawbacks that different users tend to defend or diss. In any case, in programming languages as in human languages, there aren't really some that are better than others; everything depends on what you have to say!

We hope that this article has finally shed some light on the confusion between Java and JavaScript.

If you want to deepen your knowledge in web development, we invite you to consult: