Survey: Developers eager for Java 8

Lambda capabilities are the most anticipated new feature, while JavaScript addition lags far behind in popularity

Yes, Java has had plenty of bad press in recent years because of security issues. Yes, the upcoming release of Java, version 8, has had its initial feature set pared and has been delayed. But Java developers still are set to embrace that upcoming release, results of a survey being released Monday reveal.

A February survey of 2,870 Java developers taken by middleware vendor Typesafe, proponents of the Scala JVM language, found that 29 percent plan to upgrade to Java Standard Edition 8, due on March 18, within six months. An additional 25 percent plan to make the move within six to 12 months. Java 8 will be offered via Java Development Kit 8.

Java has had a plethora of bad news about security issues in recent years, with problems with Java in the browser of particular concern. And Oracle has had to pare Java 8 features, including Project Jigsaw modularity capabilities, in order to get the release out this month. A stripped implementations capability also is set to be dropped. Java 8 already has been delayed while Oracle ironed out security concerns, but Typesafe still found enthusiasm for Java 8. Developers are pleased Oracle is taking security seriously and felt there were still enough features in Java 8 to be excited about, Jonas Boner, CTO at Typesafe.

The most talked-about feature in Java 8 is lambdas, which boost programming on multicore processors by adding closures and related features. "It's no surprise that 83 percent of respondents chose lambda expressions as their favorite feature of Java 8," the report said. "It's worth noting that the second most popular response was the improvements to the collections that are being added to exploit lambdas."

Lambdas bring functional programming, a specialty of Scala, to Java 8, Boner said. "People often ask us if lambdas coming to Java will slow the adoption of Scala. We believe the acceptance of these features by the Java Community Process validates our innovation in language design on the JVM and will help to accelerate Scala adoption,"  the report said. Java 8 still is lacking in terms of functional programming, such as libraries, Boner said, noting that "Scala was built being object-oriented and functional from the start, and Java has added it as an afterthought."

The addition of the Nashorn JavaScript engine in Java 8 only had 9 percent of respondents saying they were most excited about it. (Respondents could be "most excited" about multiple features.) "I don't think most people know what they will use this feature for yet. It will take some time for existing frameworks to pick it up and for new ones -- building on top of it -- to emerge," Boner said.

While many are prepared to move quickly to Java 8, Typesafe did find that 32 percent said they had not evaluated it yet. "I think the 32 percent not having evaluated it yet is actually really low," Boner said. said. "If you consider how many laggards are still on Java 6 and how challenging it is for any massively popular programming language to get users on upgrades, I'm surprised that only 32 percent haven't evaluated it yet."  Indeed, the survey found that 22 percent of respondents were still on Java 6, released in 2006 and reaching "end of life" status in February 2013. Seventy-three percent were on Java 7.

Survey respondents also overwhelmingly endorsed Oracle's Java Virtual Machine, with 98 percent saying they use it. The Dalvik/Android VM was used by 20 percent of respondents. Oracle's Java Development Kit also was the dominant choice, used by 88 percent of those surveyed. The Apache Tomcat application server was used by 68 percent of respondents, while the Eclipse Jetty Web server was used by 49 percent of respondents,  followed by Red Hat's JBoss server at 25 percent. Typesafe surveyed both Typesafe customers and developers from open source communities, including Akka and Play communities.

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