A story of Java's improbable return to prominence

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General-purpose programming language Java was lauded as the next big thing a decade or so ago. As I can attest to, it was being taught as an entry-level programming course at colleges across the country and billed as the platform to beat with regards to app development – both on the PC and cell phones.

Things didn’t exactly play out as many had hoped, however. A string of security bugs and overall poor decisions from creator Sun Microsystems led to what LinkedIn principal staff engineer Jay Kreps described as some annoying thing that really outdated websites try to make you download.

You’d be forgiven to think that Java is dead in the water. Truth be told, it’s very much alive and well and has remarkably become the primary foundation for some of the web’s largest and most ambitious operations. This is one such story.

During the summer of 2010, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev stopped by Twitter headquarters in San Francisco on his way to meet with Google CEO Eric Schmidt. As you can imagine, it was quite the media circus at Twitter headquarters and on the service, especially when you factor in that the World Cup soccer tourney was going on in South Africa at the same time.

All of that combined was just too much for Twitter’s infrastructure. Its engineers simply couldn’t keep the site up and running for any considerable amount of time. With Medvedev set to post his first ever Tweet during the headquarters tour, Twitter couldn’t fail with so much press on hand.

The Russian president’s Tweet, “Hello everyone, I’m now on Twitter and this is my first message,” was pushed out live, the site held firm and nobody was the wiser. Of course, only those behind the scenes at Twitter knew the Russian president didn’t actually use Twitter to send out his message that day.

Instead, the team built a separate service for him to Tweet from just to make sure things wouldn’t crash. That service used Java. The whole incident served as a major turning point for Twitter as they quickly realized they needed to rebuild the service from the ground-up using… you guessed it, Java.

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