Still, applets were what inspired us to work with Java, and what we discovered was a clean language that smoothed out many of the rough edges and pain points we'd been struggling with in alternatives such as C++. Automatic garbage collection alone was worth the price of admission. Applets may have been overhyped and underdelivered, but that didn't mean Java wasn't a damn good language for other problems.
Originally intended as a cross-platform client library, Java found real success in the server space. Servlets, Java Server Pages, and an array of enterprise-focused libraries that were periodically bundled together and rebranded in one confusing acronym or another solved real problems for us and for business. Marketing failures aside, Java achieved near-standard status in IT departments around the world. (Quick: What's the difference between Java 2 Enterprise Edition and Java Platform Enterprise Edition? If you guessed that J2EE is the successor of JEE, you got it exactly backward.) Some of these enterprise-focused products were on the heavyweight side and inspired open source alternatives and supplements such as Spring, Hibernate, and Tomcat, but these all built on top of the foundation Sun set.
Arguably the single most important contribution of open source to Java and the wider craft of programming is JUnit. Test-driven development (TDD) had been tried earlier with Smalltalk. However, like many other innovations of that language, TDD did not achieve widespread notice and adoption until it became available in Java. When Kent Beck and Erich Gamma released JUnit in 2000, TDD rapidly ascended from an experimental practice of a few programmers to the standard way to develop software in the 21st century. As Martin Fowler has said, "Never in the field of software development was so much owed by so many to so few lines of code," and those few lines of code were written in Java.
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