Sun Sees the Light on Java Applets

I'm working on the next edition of Sams Teach Yourself Java in 21 Days, an 800-page monster that will cover Java 6 so thoroughly that all the other Java authors will stop writing their books and pursue retraining for a non-technical profession. (Computer book authors should talk smack like rappers. One of these days I'm going to start an East Coast/West Coast feud with Seattle's Glenn "PC-Diddy" Fleischman.)

Ten years ago, the original edition of Java in 21 Days made a big deal out of Java applets, web-based programs that were the world's first exposure to the language. The first Java boom was sparked by then-Netscape executive Marc Andreesen's decision to add a Java interpreter to the Navigator browser.

As the years passed, the world realized that an applet is a terrible thing to do to a web browser. Even today, with five iterations of Java to improve performance, you can tell when a page contains an applet: Your hard drive starts spinning furiously as the Java Plug-in loads and there's an interminably long pause before the page displays. Fortunately for authors like me, Java found a better niche in servlets, mobile devices and enterprise applications.

The next edition of my book relegates browser applets to an appendix. By the time Java 7 rolls around, I may dump the subject entirely.

Need more proof that applets are dead? If you go to Sun's Java.Com homepage, you may see a cool demo of a Fast and the Furious: Tokyo cell phone game that's written in Java.

The demo loads quickly and incorporates fast-moving graphics synchronized perfectly with sound. When I saw it, I was so impressed that I dug into the page's source code, wanting to find out how Sun accomplished such great effects using an applet.

The answer: They wrote it in Flash.


16-bit word up to your muthaboard.

Myself, I've stopped writing print books because every topic seems to swell out of control. My latest ebook is a thin 103 pages (on domain names), and I get paid 30 days following the end of each month of sales, as well as keeping about 43% of gross proceeds

I have to laugh when I read this. "Crapplets" have always been lousy.

Hey! In 1996 applets were going to be huge! Huge I tell you!

At the time I wrote the orginal TY Java there were some seriously doubtful comments from tech editors about why I had spent so much time on the actual language. People aren't going to actually CODE in java, they explained. The vast majority were just going to download existing applets and use configuration parameters to change behavior and appearance. Surely my book would be so much more sucessful if I just focussed on the <applet> tag.

Yikes! I guess every new language goes through a phase where "and you can fire most of your programmers!" is a selling point.

I used to show readers how to use applets as dynamic navigation menus on their web sites.

They wrote it in Flash.

You have big hopes for your newest tomb it appears. Best of luck with the deforestation.


I still don't get it why applets have to freeze the browser for seconds. I'm a (mostly) java programmer, but I've learned to hate them too. I guess that flash takes just as long to start up it just doesn't freeze the browser. (Actually you can tell when flash is being used in a page too, poorly written stupid animations tend to eat up all your CPU cycles.) Flash also wins this game because it's easier to work with (no similare high level libraries for java AND JavaScript is easier) and easier to install. (You can install the latest flash plugin in seconds without restarting your browser.) If java were able to start up without freezing the browser and install quockly and seemlessly we would still see a lot of java applets around.

Are you sure this is written in Flash ? the movie obviously is in Flash, but if you try the game it actually opens up in Java Web Start.

I still don't think applets were a bad idea. The problem is that Sun didn't then (mostly still doesn't) know squat about client side development. Applets did happen, and they were amazingly successful when they were done right. It's just that Macromedia did them instead of Sun, and the language was Flash, not Java. :-(

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