Java vs. JavaScript: What's the Difference?

Coding for Beginners
Written by:
App Academy
Published on:
August 21, 2023
man reading in front of a computer

Java vs. JavaScript: Uncover the distinctions and choose the right language for your goals. Explore their uses, advantages, and community support.

If you want to learn a programming language and you’ve encountered two of the most popular options in the world, you may have found yourself wondering about the differences between Java vs. JavaScript.

The names sound quite similar, and someone looking to switch careers might be interested in knowing which language is a more useful skill to acquire. Or, you might already be a programmer looking to enhance your skill set or get your latest project off the ground. 

We’ll get into some of the most pressing questions surrounding Java vs. JavaScript to help you make the right decision for your future and the skills you want to develop to work toward your personal and professional goals.

What is JavaScript?

JavaScript is a popular scripting language that uses an interpreter (such as a web browser like Google Chrome or Firefox) to translate and deliver code that shows up on the user’s end as a functional, feature-rich website.

It gives functionality and interactivity to websites and web apps, enabling features such as animations and pop-ups. The use of JavaScript can turn these applications from static walls of text and graphics into dynamic experiences.

JavaScript can also be used in other applications like web server programming, game development, and even robotic behavior scripting. Because of its many uses and wide versatility, it’s regarded as one of the most popular and in-demand languages in the world.

Read more: What is JavaScript? 

What is Java?

Java is a popular object-oriented programming language that’s mostly used for developing web applications, games, and software across multiple platforms. At first glance, it may look a lot like JavaScript. In fact, many people wonder, “Is Java short for JavaScript?”

Java is not short for JavaScript, and is, in fact, its own entity entirely. Used more for standalone applications, Java was introduced by Sun Microsystems in 1995 and continues to enjoy widespread use today.

The Differences Between Java and JavaScript

So are Java and JavaScript the same? They might have similar names, but Java and JavaScript are different languages with different functions and features. They also rely on different programming paradigms.

Knowing the difference between compiled and interpreted languages (as well as object-oriented and functional programming) can help you understand the differences between Java and JavaScript and make a more informed decision about which language is the better fit for your needs and preferences.

Compiled vs. Interpreted Code

One of the main differences between Java and JavaScript is how the code is handled and presented to the end user in understandable ways.

In compiled programming languages, like Java, the instructions are assembled into bytecode on the server and executed directly by the target machine. A compiled program isn’t readable by a person; rather, it’s a machine language. And because not all machines speak the same language, compiled programming languages usually only work on the platform it was designed for.

JavaScript, on the other hand, is mostly an interpreted scripting language. This means the code is first run through an interpreter in a web browser, which then reads and executes commands according to written syntax. It’s important to note that today’s web browsers use just-in-time (JIT) compilation to optimize the code just before it runs.

Interpreted languages are portable, meaning they can run on different machines or platforms as long as they have the appropriate interpreter. They can, however, be slower than compiled programs.

Object-Oriented vs. Functional Programming

Java is an object-oriented programming language, meaning it’s tied to objects (data structures) that contain an instructional blueprint that dictates the object’s behavior. Each object has attributes (properties or features) and methods (procedures) that can be inherited from a particular template, commonly referred to as a “class.”

You can think of object-oriented programming the same way you think about vehicles. If a vehicle is the object, the make, model, and color are the attributes. Starting or turning off the engine, or turning the wheel to the left or the right, are some of the methods this object is programmed to execute.

You can also use the vehicle as a parent class to create other objects, like buses or trucks. You can also give the object certain variables, some of which can be altered by other objects (like a person damaging the vehicle) and some cannot (like the make of the vehicle).

JavaScript is also object-based, but it’s also a functional programming language. Functional programming is based on the idea that, given a static function, the same input should always lead to the same output.

Functional programming relies on the data being immutable, or unchangeable. Less data manipulation often leads to fewer bugs.

What Java & JavaScript are Used For

When it comes to Java vs. JavaScript, you might be surprised to know that both languages can be used for similar purposes. They can both be used for back-end development, like server-side programming, and they can also be used for game development or building web applications. When it comes to front-end development, however, it’s possible to use Java, but it’s far more common to see JavaScript utilized for these projects. 

You’ll typically see Java used to build web and standalone applications like Netflix and Minecraft.

JavaScript, on the other hand, is most popularly used for adding front-end interactive elements to web pages, developing light video games, and back-end web development using environments like Node.js

Learn More: What Can You Do With JavaScript?

Is One Better Than the Other?

You may be wondering if it’s better to learn and use Java or JavaScript. The answer lies in understanding the advantages and disadvantages of each, as well as how they might be applicable for your specific projects or goals.

Advantages of Java

Learning Java can come with many perks. Some of these include:

  • Object-oriented programming that lends itself to near-unlimited possibilities
  • Adaptability across platforms
  • Regular updates for stability
  • Security management for reduced system vulnerabilities
  • Multithreading support for more strategic CPU utilization

One of the most underrated aspects of any programming is community support. The Java community is massive, in part due to the popularity and tenure of the language. If you run into issues while you’re learning or using the language, you can turn to the community for help.

Disadvantages of Java

As useful as Java is for server-side projects, some developers run into issues with memory requirements. Not only can Java be memory-intensive, but this, in turn, can lead to increased costs as you may need to purchase more hardware to use it. Java isn’t known for its speed, so having adequate memory is key.

Additionally, due to class and method requirements associated with object-oriented programming languages, Java needs a lot more code than JavaScript to generate the same outcome. While some may not see this as a disadvantage, it’s important to be aware of.

Advantages of JavaScript

JavaScript certainly has its benefits that make it a go-to programming language for many developers. JavaScript boasts unmatched flexibility, giving users the option to use it alongside other programming languages to create feature-rich web pages and interfaces.

JavaScript users can also take advantage of:

  • Functional programming, making JavaScript less bug-prone
  • Client-side, server-based data validation
  • Redundancy reduction through performance of multiple tasks with a single thread
  • Extensive selection of plugins and libraries for increased capabilities

Community support is also huge for JavaScript, so help is never far away if you find yourself stuck on a project. JavaScript is also among the easiest coding languages to learn, helping you get your projects off the ground quickly.  

Disadvantages of JavaScript

Despite its widespread use, JavaScript does have a few disadvantages. First, it can be easier for hackers to exploit security loopholes in JavaScript, which means they can use it to run ransomware applications. For this reason, end-users must know how to spot and avoid possible security concerns.

Additionally, different browsers running on different engines can sometimes affect JavaScript’s ability to behave consistently. While these irregularities are always being ironed out and they’re starting to show up less often, some still consider this to be one of JavaScript’s main flaws.

Start Developing Your Programming Skills with App Academy

What is the difference between Java and JavaScript? You can now confidently answer this question, and hopefully you have a better idea of which programming language might be the better choice to help you accomplish your goals. 

They each bring their own unique advantages, and they’re both valuable programming languages to know and use. Whichever you choose to learn, App Academy’s comprehensive curriculum can help you develop real-world programming competency to take your development knowledge and your career to the next level.


Don’t miss a beat with The Cohort!

We’ll send you the latest Tech industry news, SWE career tips and student stories each month.

You can unsubscribe at any time. View our Privacy Policy.
Thank you! You've now been subscribed to The Cohort.
There has been an error. Please try again.

Interested in an App Academy Bootcamp?

One of our coding bootcamps, prep course or free online coding platform (App Academy Open) could be the next step you need to make a lasting career change!