With browser plug-ins going the way of the dinosaur, Oracle plans to deprecate its Java browser plug-in in Java Development Kit 9, which is due in March 2017. The technology will then be completely removed from Oracle JDK and the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) in a future release of Java Standard Edition.
Oracle is encouraging developers to migrate Java Applets, which depend on a plug-in, to the plug-in-free Java Web Start technology. In a blog post this week, Oracle's Dalibor Topic noted this move away from plug-ins. "By late 2015, many browser vendors have either removed or announced timelines for the removal of standards-based plug-in support, eliminating the ability to embed Flash, Silverlight, Java, and other plug-in based technologies," he said.
Plug-ins in general have become less in vogue, with security issues and the rise of standards-based HTML5 technologies bringing about their demise. The Java browser plug-in in particular has been under attack.
Included in the JRE since 2001, Java Web Start provides an application deployment technology for launching full-featured applications with a single click from within a browser. Applications such as a spreadsheet or Internet chat client can be downloaded and launched without "complicated" installation procedures, Topic said. If an application is not present on the user's computer, Java Web Start will download the necessary files and cache them.
For applets that cannot be converted to a Java Web Start application, developers can explore alternatives, according to an Oracle white paper on migrating Java applets. These include native Windows/OS X/Linux installers, which do not require a separate JRE application, or JavaFX WebView, which lets an application use an embedded version of WebKit to render HTML5 applications.
Oracle said supporting Java in browsers was only doable as long as browser vendors were committed to supporting standards-based plug-ins. But now they are moving away from plug-ins, and some are unveiling browser-specific extension APIs.
The company reflected on Java's history in the browser.
Java's rapid rise to fame 20 years ago began with a tumbling duke applet running in the HotJava browser, long before Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome were released. Applets allowed richer development functionality through a browser plug-in at a time when browser capabilities were very limited and provided centralized distribution of applications without requiring users to install or update applications locally.
Oracle now has no plans to provide additional browser-specific plug-ins, since these would require application developers to write browser-specific applets for each browser.