Firstly – if you distribute server-side Java applications, then this URL will make your life a lot easier: http://java.sun.com/j2se/1.5.0/jdk/download.jsp. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, read on…
As most Java programmers are aware, there are two distributions of Java from Sun. The Java Runtime Environment (JRE), and the Java Development Kit (JDK). The first one allows you to run Java programs, and the second also allows you to run programs, but also contains (amongst other things), tools to allow you to compile Java programs.
One barrier to Java’s adoption on the client side has been getting the runtime environment installed on every computer. Whilst Apple ships a JRE with every computer, users of Linux and Windows have to download Java themselves.
For many years, Sun made downloading the JRE ridiculously hard. One reason that Macromedia’s Flash has become the predominant language for writing rich web applications is that it is trivial to download and install. Contrast this to finding the JRE, downloading it, installing it, and adding it as a browser plugin for each browser that I use. On Linux I still don’t have the JRE linked properly to the Firefox browser I am using to write this post.
In the last couple of years, Sun have realised the error of their ways, and have created http://java.com/, an easy way of downloading the JRE.
However, All is not so rosy over in server-side Java land. We all know that the main server-side Java language Java Server Pages get compiled using Java’s compiler, which means that all JSP applications (until recently, when Tomcat shipped the eclipse compiler with 5.5) needed access to a compiler. Sun’s licensing model prohibits a vendor from shipping the JDK with their application.
Ok – let’s send our users over to http://java.sun.com/j2se/1.5.0/download.jsp to download the JDK. Take a quick peek at that page. Half our users download the Netbeans bundle, and half download the J2EE bundle. Finding the JDK was even harder last year, when for a few months, the renamed it to be called the SDK instead.
Late last year, I ran into Martin Hardee – whose title was ‘Director of Web Experience’ at Sun. “Fantastic”, I thought to myself, someone who can do something. So, like a late Christmas present, I received an email from the web team at Sun today:

Happy New Year!

The J2SE team liked your recommendation of creating the redirect.

You can now go directly to http://java.sun.com/j2se/1.5.0/jdk/download.jsp

Thanks for your feedback,
Kenny Mikami

So – if you create server-side applications, you can now direct your clients to a URL to download the JDK directly!

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