How PayPal Is Flipping the (Java) Script | TechWell

How PayPal Is Flipping the (Java) Script

In late November, Jeff Harrell, director of engineering at PayPal, announced in a blog post that the company will officially switch from Java to JavaScript. The reasons PayPal made the leap perfectly identify the advantages of JavaScript over Java.

Harrell explains that before the switch, the company was experiencing dissonance between front-end developers and back-end developers. Front-end developers were largely working with web technologies; back-end programmers were entrenched in Java.

There was a clear divide in the production of applications. Anytime front-end developers wanted to create a new page, they needed back-end developers to lay some foundation. If the page needed to evolve from the prototyped purpose—and it usually did—then the entire process had to be restarted due to the rigid nature of Java. By switching to JavaScript, PayPal claims they were able to shorten development time and the number of engineers needed on projects.

This highlights an important advantage that JavaScript has over Java. JavaScript allows for alterations at any point during the lifetime of the project; Java can’t be altered without breaking the program. This function of JavaScript allows a project to maintain its fluidity and become more agile in the development process.

Another benefit of JavaScript is the difference in the runtime environment. Java runs inside its virtual machine; JavaScript is entirely reliant on the browser. So what’s the big deal? For PayPal, JavaScript’s browser-reliant scripting nature allowed users of PayPal’s pages to experience nearly a 35 percent decrease in average response time for the same pages that were originally embedded with Java.

Furthermore, JavaScript allows more freedom in terms of creation by permitting developers to call on an item that already exists in the web browser. This differs from Java where everything needs to be laid out and detailed neatly for the program to function.

With its switch from Java to JavaScript, PayPal was able to build apps and consumer-facing web pages with a third less code and approximately 40 percent fewer files. But more importantly, the switch allowed for work by both back-end and front-end engineers to become parallel—rather than serial. Teams can move faster and communicate ideas more effectively, enabling PayPal to double its productivity.

PayPal proved that switching to JavaScript can lead a company to quicker development cycles with fewer people, less coding, and less file usage. And that can mean more productivity, better results, and happier developers.

Does your company use Java or JavaScript? Do you think coding in JavaScript could benefit your company? Tell us in the comments below.

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