Java & JavaScript: What’s the Difference?

The JavaScript logo on a light blue background and the Java logo (a mug of coffee) on a dark blue background.

If you’re new to the world of coding you’ve likely heard the terms ‘Java’ and ‘JavaScript’ thrown around. While the words may seem interchangeable, they are in fact two vastly different & widely-used programming languages. It’s all a bit confusing, so we’ll take a beginner-friendly look at both languages and discover which one may be the language for you!


Computer scientist James Gosling began developing Java in 1991 while working for Sun Microsystems. Originally known as Oak and then Green, Java was initially created for use in interactive television, but it was deemed too advanced for cable television at the time. However, it was found to be suitable for use on the back-end (or server-side) of internet apps and was ultimately released for this purpose by Sun in May 1995.


In 1994, Netscape Communications Corporation released web browser Netscape Navigator which incredibly popular. Netscape Navigator was able to render static web pages, displaying basic elements like text and images. A user’s interaction with the page was limited simple actions like filling in forms, clicking links, and viewing a page.

Netscape was eager to make websites more interactive for users so they recruited programmer Brendan Eich to discover what coding language would best suit this task. Java was actually considered, however it is quite an advanced language and Eich wanted something that would be easier for website builders of the 1990s to use. Ultimately, Eich ended up creating a new language called JavaScript, and he did so in only 10 days!

Why are the names so similar?

Like most people, you’re probably wondering: if they’re two different languages, why are their names so similar? JavaScript was initially known as Mocha and then LiveScript but was renamed as a marketing ploy. In the 1990s, Java was viewed as a hot new programming language, therefore JavaScript was selected by Netscape in order to capitalise on Java’s reputation and encourage adoption of JavaScript.

What is each one used for?

The key difference between Java and JavaScript lies in what the languages themselves are used for. Java is predominantly used in back-end development, meaning that it is used on the server-side to build the inner workings of apps, games, data processing engines, and more. Java is used by many organisations you’re likely familiar with, including NASA, Spotify, PayPal, the list goes on! It was even used to the creation of the popular video game Minecraft.

JavaScript can be used for both front-end and back-end development, however it is most commonly used in front-end development to make web pages more dynamic for users.  A great example of this interactivity provided by JavaScript is online maps: your ability to zoom in and out, move around the map, and more is possible because of JavaScript.

Which language is a good fit for you?

Apart from teaching you in-demand digital skills, there are a wide range benefits associated with learning both languages, include high salaries and job satisfaction. Both languages are used by companies big and small, including Google, Microsoft, Netflix, AirBnb, and Uber.

Java is a great language to learn if you’re interested in back-end development. It’s found in almost every operating system and application and it’s typically considered easier to learn than languages like C and C++. Additionally, knowing Java can lead to a very lucrative career; the average salary for a Java Developer in the UK is around £54,000.

JavaScript is often called “the language of the web” due it’s popularity and is used by an astounding 98% of all websites (as of April 2023). It’s popularity doesn’t seem to be waining either; in 2022 JavaScript was found to be the most commonly used programming language for the 10th year in a row!

If both languages sound intriguing but you’re unsure which to learn, a great first step is figuring out what you would like to accomplish from learning a programming language. If you’re interested in creating apps or games and back-end development, then Java is a great path for you. If making websites dynamic and interactive for users is your goal, then JavaScript is your best bet.

Learn Java & JavaScript at CodeClan

At CodeClan you can learn both Java and JavaScript, amongst a wide variety of other languages, as part of our 16-week Professional Software Development course. 

If retraining for a software career doesn’t feel like the next step for you, check out JavaScript for Beginners. This short course requires no prior experience and will introduce you to the essentials of JavaScript programming in just one day!


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