The Difference Between a Java Applet & Javascript

By Shane Cooper

Programming with Javascript is easy for website designers.
i ANSI image by DBX60 from

Java is a computer programming language and is the foundation for both Java applets and Javascripts. Java is an object-oriented programming language developed and distributed by Sun Microsystems. Java is designed to allow programmers the ability to develop applications independently from an operating system. Java is the foundation for a variety of sub-technologies, two of which are Java applets and Javascripts.

Brief History

Java's original development team gave their project the code name "Oak." Later, speculation suggested that the name JAVA is a derivative of the founders' first names, James Gosling, Arthur Van Hoff and Andy Bechtolsheim. Originally, the plan was for a lightweight web browser, HotJava, introduced in 1995, but later became a programming language for multiple uses, according to the official Java website and the book "Beyond the Basics," published by the Virginia Tech Computer Science Labs.

However, the compactness and lightweight cross platform technologies of Java have expanded the original use and intent of Java.


Javascript is a small, easy to use subset of the more complex Java code environment. Javascripts are designed to be used inside web pages for basic processing and are dependent on running within the standard web page code, HTML. Most web page designers who are not programmers can take advantage of Javascript to enhance their designs, add database information and provide functionality without going through the steps of generating a full-fledged application.

Java Applets

Applications are programs with complex user interfaces, database connections, network access and specific platform dependencies. Applets, or more specifically, Java applets are mini applications that are more simplistic in use yet complex in nature, and like applications require code to be compiled in a specific manner.

Applets can run as standalone programs. As mini applications, Java applets run completely independently from a web page, but are typically called inside of a web page for specific functionality.


Writing Java applets is more complex, usually requiring a programmer to learn a full language to make the mini applications function properly. Java applets must be precompiled or compiled on the fly, depending on the developer's intentions. Either way, Java applets have to be compiled or translated from text into something the user can use and interact with.

Javascripts are light-weight text-based pieces of code that are placed in line with standard web page code, HTML. Javascripts usually do not required hours of programming or learning a new language. Rather, the average web developer and website designer can pick them up and use them.


Depending on the needs of a given website, both technologies can perform specific functions.

Javascripts are efficient for such functions as manipulating graphics, changing font colors or flipping button styles on a web page. Javascripts work for manipulating form data, moving objects around a web page and running game coding, according to the Web Developers Notes website and its Javascript Tutorials.

Java applets are more complex, but powerful, stand-alone mini applications for performing more far reaching needs beyond website code and Javascripts.

You can determine best which technology to use based upon a site's overall need requirement to be effective.


Javascripts are easy to manipulate, quick to use text-based code that anyone who can manipulate a web page can take advantage of. Everyday website designers and webmasters can use Javascript immediately with little programming effort.

Java applets take much more programming skill, time and design, usually requiring a master programmer to be involved.

Both technologies, Javascript and Java applets are powerful in their various uses and can take advantage of numerous functionalities for an engaging, useful and powerful website.