Java will not be ignored! Why the world’s biggest companies rely on it
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Java has undoubtedly become the foundation of the world’s largest and most ambitious companies —tech giants turn to Java as they mature and their platforms can no longer come across with what they promised: quality and efficiency.
Five years ago, Bob Lee, the (then) CTO of Square, famously said that the web was “on the cusp of a Java renaissance.” He opined that it is “the only choice when it comes to the requirements for a company like ours [Square] —extreme performance requirements and extreme scalability requirements. There is no visible alternative.”
There’s more to Java than some might think; it is not only a programming language, but also a virtual machine which executes code —although the JVM initially (only) ran code built with the Java programming language, that’s not the case anymore. The world’s largest companies’ online services revolve around the JVM and even use it to run code built in a plethora of languages. Let’s take an example.
Twitter’s AHA moment
Twitter used to be one, monolithic application created with Ruby on Rails and it worked fine until people started to use the service extensively. In order to handle huge amounts of traffic, the company had to do something. Creativity worked wonders for Twitter as the company welcomed (then) Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to its headquarters in the summer of 2010. The leader’s first tweet was indubitably a milestone for Twitter, but what Medvedev and the world didn’t know was that the tech giant resorted to a trick:
Raffi Krikorian, (then) vice president of engineering at Twitter told Wired that the team created a separate service for the Russian President to tweet from to make sure the service would not crash in the middle of this historical moment since the World Cup soccer tournament in South Africa was a huge source of tweets at that time. As a result, when Medvedev created a Twitter account and unleashed his first tweet which read “Hello everyone, I’m now on Twitter and this is my first message,” the team “had him do it on a staging site.”
The visit went well, but the team learned a valuable lesson: that it was time to do something about the service’s foundation. This was when Java came into the picture and changed everything. As Twitter set a fresh record for tweets in one second —143,199 as people in Japan tweeted about the TV airing of Castle in the Sky— with no more headaches and desperate measures, the team realized the true meaning of the JVM’s power.
The exception which proves the rule
Nearly every tech giant which needs to scale massively uses Java. Square, Amazon, Google, Netflix and eBay are just a few examples which prove that the bigger companies get, the more pressing the need for Java becomes. Still, there’s one company that remains loyal to PHP —Facebook, which was originally built with PHP and continues to run on PHP.
PHP is the right choice when it comes to rapid development, but its benefits die out as the number of users increases. Judging by Facebook’s burgeoning size, it’s nothing short of a miracle that it continues to use PHP since the number of machines must grow exponentially. Instead of following in Twitter’s footsteps, Facebook discovered a new way of running PHP at fast speeds — called HipHop. This tool successfully converted the PHP code into C++ before it was implemented on the company’s servers. Then came the virtual machine (HipHop Virtual Machine) —a software which converted the PHP code into native machine code as the code was executing.
One of the reasons why Facebook has stuck with PHP was that rewriting the whole site in another language would be a bigger task than upgrading it. Drew Paroski, former software engineer at Facebook, told Wired that “you eventually get to a size where it’s not feasible to rewrite it all.”
Java is everywhere
It has become common knowledge that the majority of Fortune 500 companies use Java. But Java is not only about popularity —it’s about power and speed. A huge number of companies migrate to Java as they hit a certain limit and realize they need to switch to something more powerful. Java continues to add new features, so it is safe to say that it is anything but an obsolete language.
Although there have been security problems in the past which affected its reputation, Java is still here.