Java vs. JavaScript: Which is right for you?

Java and JavaScript are two of the most popular programming languages. Because they both have "Java" in their names, you may think they're related. But they're actually very different.

As Brendan, a full-stack developer, shares in the video below, it's kind of like the difference between donuts and Doritos. Both are snacks, and both start with "do," but that's where the similarities end. Brendan goes on to explain the differences between Java and JavaScript. He touches on their origins, defining features, applications, and associated career paths.

If you’re interested in learning more about the differences — or trying to figure out which is the best language to learn — watch the video or read on to learn more about whether Java or JavaScript is right for you.

Java vs. JavaScript: History and development

Let's start at the beginning. Sun Microsystems first released Java in 1996. At first, they intended to implement Java into televisions to enable interactivity, but these plans fell through. Instead, Java found its niche in server-side programming — the invisible background workings of applications.

In 1995, Netscape created a programming language called Mocha. Later renamed JavaScript, Mocha was designed with simplicity in mind. Like CSS, it was meant to be embedded into a website’s HTML. But whereas CSS adds style, JavaScript adds interactivity.

Later, in response to the rising popularity of Internet Explorer (a major Netscape competitor), Netscape and Sun Microsystems struck a deal. Netscape offered Sun the opportunity to run Java apps in web browsers, which allowed them to benefit from the language's popularity. In return, Netscape changed Mocha's name to JavaScript.

Java vs. JavaScript: Differences and applications

Interested in learning a new programming language and not sure whether to start with Java or JavaScript?  In a conversation about this very topic in the Codecademy Forums, Codecademy learner LeChuck shares:

“It depends entirely on what you want to do.
In general, if you want to develop for the web then choose JavaScript. If you’re thinking you might like to make Android apps, then Java would be better.
What is it that you want to do with your programming knowledge? Answering that questions will likely steer your answer to which language(s) you want to learn…”

In this section, we’ll take a look at the applications of Java and JavaScript to help you figure out which one is best for you.


Java is a statically typed programming language with rigid syntax around declaring variables. With Java, you have to specify the types of values you'll be saving to a specific variable. Once you declare a variable as a particular type of data (like a String), it must remain such for its entire lifetime.

Java is also class-based. Classes serve as reusable templates to produce objects. Objects are data structures used to store information. When programming in Java, you'll use classes and objects to model real-life situations in code. Here's an example:

public class CheeseCurls {
  public static void main(String[] args) {
    System.out.println("Here's a bag of Cheese curls");

As you can see, Java requires a lot of code, even for something as simple as printing out "Here's a bag of Cheese curls." First, we write the class declaration, illustrated by the first line of code in the example above. Within the class declaration, we create the main method, which is a method that automatically gets called when the code runs. Lastly, we specify what we want to happen.

Because of its capacity for stability and data handling, Java is used for:

  • Large-scale projects by big enterprises within the financial, trade, and automotive industries
  • Android app development
  • Back-end development
  • Scientific computing
  • Hardware and Internet of Things (e.g., Raspberry Pi, Sonos speakers, and Smart Refrigerators)

Java takes a while to learn, but its demand, versatility, and earning power speak to its value. You'll also find that there's a satisfaction that comes with building a big project from the ground up — especially when it's your code that makes it all run smoothly.

If you're interested in computer science or see yourself building the next hot Android app, learning Java is a great first step.


Maybe you're more interested in building interactive websites or game development. In that case, you might be better off learning JavaScript.

JavaScript is a dynamically typed programming language with less rigid syntax around declaring variables. With JavaScript, you don't have to specify what type of data you're saving to a variable. You can also reassign variables to values with different data types.

Unlike Java, JavaScript is prototype-based and isn't bound to a code pattern. Recent updates to JavaScript have enabled class construction, but it's not a requirement. Here's an example:

console.log("Here's a bag of Cheese curls");

With JavaScript, there's no need to add classes or functions — you just write what you want to happen in one line.

Due to its lack of rigidity, JavaScript is easier to build and get off the ground. However, Java's rigid structure is less prone to bugs. While it takes longer to get off the ground, it's much more stable.

Known as "the language of the web," JavaScript dominates web development. Its uses include front-end development and web-based projects. However, years of open-sourced development have led to huge libraries and APIs that can extend JavaScript's capabilities.

While initially limited to the web browser, JavaScript's recent breakout framework Node.js allows it to be used for back-end development, too. In a survey of professional developers, Stack Overflow found that over half of them use Node.js.

Even if you're not looking for a new career, learning to code can still benefit you in your current position. One of our learners recently shared a post about how they were able to build a script to improve time management after only learning JavaScript for a couple weeks.

Getting started

Interested in learning more about Java or JavaScript? Here are some courses to help you get started:

Get more practice, more projects, and more guidance.

Jacob Johnson

Jacob Johnson is a Content Marketing Associate at Codecademy with a background in writing about technology.

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Java vs. JavaScript: Which is right for you?
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