Computer science is crucial to our lives today, and programming languages play a fundamental role. These languages act as a programmer’s toolbox. However, choosing a language can be challenging, especially when deciding between the two most popular options. These options include Java and Python.
Java and Python are widely used as general-purpose programming languages for desktop and web applications. There are many similarities when comparing the two, but there are also significant differences. These differences are what make one programming language ideal over the other.
Both of these object-oriented programming languages offer significant cross-platform support and extensive libraries. However, they excel in different applications. Recent trends show that Python is becoming more popular than Java, likely because of its great use for experimentation. However, Java is better for production code.
Both programming languages have their unique selling points. For example, while Python is easier to use and read, Java offers a faster runtime. The best option comes down to the individual programmer and what they hope to achieve. Here’s how to compare Java vs. Python.
Java remains one of the most popular programming languages in the world. First created in 1995 by James Gosling at Sun Microsystems, Oracle owns Java today. Over three billion devices run Java, using this programming language for everything from mobile apps to web apps and games to web servers.
When first created, the intention was for Java to be WORA — write once, run anywhere. It is a statically typed and compiled language.
Based on its history and plethora of available libraries, Java does offer a large community when in need of support. This ongoing support can make programming in Java reasonably straightforward. If a programmer is looking for code, Java’s libraries make it easy to find code previously written for a specific purpose.
Java continues to be a popular programming language based on its simplicity and ease of use. It is also open-source and free.
Java has many applications but is often used for web development. The most common applications for Java include:
These use cases show how versatile and robust the Java programming language is. According to StackShare, nearly 10,000 corporations use Java in their tech stacks, including Google, Uber, Instagram, Netflix, and Airbnb. However, there are billions of active Java virtual machines globally. Real-world use cases are seen across many industries, including real estate, eCommerce, healthcare, retail, and more.
First released in 1991, Python also has an impressive history. Developed by Guido van Rossum at the National Research Institute for Mathematics and Computer Science in the Netherlands, Python is considered a powerful programming language.
Python was designed to be highly readable to fulfill general purposes upon its creation. It is a dynamically typed and interpreted language.
Based on its vast libraries, Python allows programmers to get started quickly. For example, if a programmer is interested in machine learning, there’s a library for that. A minimal amount of code needs to be started from scratch, so this programming language is ideal for beginners. However, it’s also great for sharing code with others.
Python also has many use cases. Concerning use cases, Python is excellent for big data. There are many reasons for this, including:
The most common applications for Python include:
Python applications are now mainstream, with a presence across many different industries — and the applications are increasing each day. Many of the companies discussed above, that use Java, also use Python. These include Netflix, Google, Instagram, Spotify, Dropbox, and Quora.
Aside from web application development, data science, and AI, Python has a strong presence in the gaming industry. This programming language uses Python libraries like PyGame and PySoy to develop Battlefield 2 and other successful games.
Unlike Python, Java is one of the two official programming languages used for Android. However, Python has gained popularity simply because people grasp it more easily.
Both programming languages are high-level. Python is an interpreted programming language, which means it can convert human-readable code into machine-readable code. In comparison, Java is what’s known as a compiled programming language. Java code is initially compiled into a binary bytecode, which can then run on any platform or device with Java Virtual Machine (JVM). However, because JVM is a software-based interpreter, Java can be considered a compiled and interpreted language.
Both Java and Python support several programming paradigms. Both are object-oriented.
Code readability is a major selling point for Python, as this programming language keeps code clean, concise, and readable. These benefits are one of the core reasons why many developers prefer Python. Developers can avoid writing additional code to keep applications maintainable.
As Java releases new versions, new language features are included to simplify the software development process. For example, Java 9 developers can structure software applications with modules. Java modules are for better package distributions and enhanced security.
Programming languages do not have speed, but they do have semantics. To compare the runtime speed of two programming languages, such as Java and Python, programmers must focus on specific implementations. With that in mind, Java is much faster than Python. Historically, Java was up to 25+ times faster, but that has since changed following the release of Python 3. Regardless, Java is still significantly faster, which is why it remains the dominant choice for enterprise-level software development.
Compared to Java, Python sacrifices some of its performance to be a more flexible option known for its high-level programming features.
Unlike Python, Java is one of the official programming languages of the world’s most popular operating system. Many developers today count on Java to build apps and games for Android.
In comparison, developers lack any options to use Python to build native mobile apps for mobile platforms. It is still possible to develop Python-based apps using libraries like Kivy. However, to deliver an optimal user experience, a significant amount of time and effort is required to build Python-based apps.
Enterprises continue to adopt agile development methodologies to rapidly deliver high-quality software applications. To do so, organizations often opt for DevOps to accelerate development, testing, and deployment processes.
Both Java and Python make this possible. The difference is that Java features a static type system, making it easier for programmers to simplify refactoring — while Python allows developers to automate refactoring via a dynamic type system. Python has an edge in that it enables programmers to experiment with ideas based on its simple and expressive syntax.
Beginners tend to favor Python over Java. Python’s syntax is relatively straightforward, making this language a more user-friendly option.
Java is more complex and challenging, showcasing a high entry point. It takes time to fully understand and utilize the capabilities of Java.
The overall consensus is that while Python is easier to learn, learning Java is far from impossible — it just takes longer. While some argue Java can lead to higher quality code, an experienced Python developer can also benefit from the same functionalities associated with Java. Outstanding developers benefit from learning both languages, especially since each language excels at different applications.
As we move to 2022, Python and Java remain neck and neck.
Depending on the source, stats vary. However, most sources show that Python has slithered past Java recently, as reported by Stackoverflow, Google Trends, and GitHub Octoverse.
According to GitHub, in 2019, Python overtook Java for the first time. This recent lead is because Python became the language of choice for teaching — not to mention the popularity of Python frameworks, such as TensorFlow for machine learning.
Fast forward to 2021 and Python remains ahead of Java.
Of course, Java remains highly popular. Those who use Java tend to prefer this programming language, but Python now has more users based on ease of use. For example, Python requires less code, whereas Java requires the developer to type in all the variables.
Java also has rigorous syntax rules, contributing to Python’s slight lead. However, some argue that Java’s greater stability gives it an edge. Unlike Python, which tests syntax during the runtime, everything has to be reviewed and established in Java before running. This testing process means the code must be very well-written, reducing the probability of crashes.
Again, when reflecting on the more popular language choice, it’s essential to consider its use cases.
For beginners, the question remains — which programming language should be used first?
Python is the clear choice for most new programmers. Offering a straightforward syntax, Python is a good starting point, especially among those most interested in deep learning, machine learning, and the AI field as a whole. For data analysis and visualization, Python offers advantages.
With that in mind, some prefer to start with Java, as it’s often challenging to transition to languages like Java after focusing primarily on Python. In contrast, taking the leap from Java to Python is rather comfortable. Java has a vast range of libraries and frameworks to lean on during the initial learning process.
The best language to learn for each programmer will depend on the individual. For those interested in programming, Python is an excellent choice. A programmer can see how far they can go with Python before branching out. For those who plan to pursue a career in computer science, it may be best to jump right in and learn Java first.
Because Java will help a programmer understand the inner workings of programming. Leaping from Java to Python after will allow programmers to see how this programming language makes things easier, yet they will still hold that core knowledge and skill. Learning Java is also the preferred option when the goal is to make mobile apps. Once a programmer learns Java for Android, they can easily switch to Swift to move into iOS as well. So, while Java requires more initial time and effort to learn, the ongoing benefits of learning this programming language are significant.
Both Python and Java are well-suited for many people. After all, both have large communities behind them.
It’s important to note that learning one programming language does not mean that a programmer cannot learn another. However, since Python is simpler to understand and implement in most cases today, most programmers lean towards this programming language. Those interested in learning multiple languages will often migrate to Java afterward — but in this case, it is advantageous to learn Java first.
Whether the same programmer uses Java and Python within the same application, these two languages can be used together to achieve a larger goal. After all, both Java and Python are object-oriented programming languages.
For example, one could be used for typical subtasks, while the other may be used for expanding the customization of an application being developed.
Another example would be using a Python-Java interpreter like Jython, which translates Python source code directly into Java bytecode. The advantage here is speed.
Other tools include:
So, when it comes to Java vs. Python, it’s clear why these two programming languages are so popular. While Python is easier to learn and use, Java is generally more efficient and optimal for debugging. Overall, when a programmer’s top priority is development speed, Python is ideal, but if the top priority is stability over all else, Java is the better choice.
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