You’ve probably heard all about how the Java browser plug-in is insecure. 91% of system compromises in 2013 were against that insecure Java plug-in. But Java isn’t the same thing as JavaScript — in fact, they’re not really related.

Most of our readers probably understand the difference, but not everyone knows it. Any confusion isn’t accidental — JavaScript was originally named JavaScript just to associate it with Java in people’s minds.

Java Basics

Java is a popular programming language used for everything from server software to desktop applications and even Android apps. You’ve probably heard of Minecraft, which is written in Java. Running a Java application requires Oracle’s Java runtime on your computer. It was previously developed by Sun, but Oracle purchased Sun — so it’s now Oracle Java instead of Sun Java.

But Java isn’t just used for traditional applications. Back in the 90’s, Sun developed a browser plug-in that allowed you to run Java programs –or “Java applets” — inside web browsers. The Java plug-in isn’t widely used anymore, and it’s been a source of endless security problems. You do not want to run Java applets inside your browser if possible. The Java plug-in — and Java content in web browsers — has proven insecure and bad.

There’s just one Java plug-in, and it’s created by Oracle and bundled along with the Java runtime. If there’s a problem with it, you have to wait for Oracle to fix it. There’s no competition to improve it.

JavaScript Basics

JavaScript is a programming language used by web pages. HTML is the layout language that defines how web pages are laid and and JavaScript is the language that lets web pages be more dynamic. JavaScript is what enables web applications like Gmail to function, and JavaScript is used by practically every website at this point.

JavaScript was originally designed to be a lightweight scripting language to run in web browsers. It isn’t a separate browser plug-in that comes from one company — every browser includes its own different JavaScript engine. Browsers natively run JavaScript code without relying on a third-party plug-in. There’s been much competition among browser vendors to make JavaScript faster and better.

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