What are the major differences in between Java version in terms of software development? Where can one find a summary of the most important changes related to programming?

The Release Notes such as http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/java/javase/releasenotes-136954.html can be hard to read.

For example there is new code structure "for each" in Java 1.5.


1 Answer 1


This is a summary of the excellent Wikipedia article about the Java version history. It is highly selective (and biased on what I know and use), otherwise it would simply turn out to be a copy of the article.

The bold parts are what really brought the language forward as a whole. As you see, not every release has bold parts.

Java 11

JSR 384, what's new

Language changes:

Library changes:

Java 10

JSR 383, what's new

Language changes:

Java 9

JSR 379, what's new

Language changes:

Library changes:

  • Java Platform Module System (jigsaw)
    • modularization of the platform itself
    • makes modules a first-class citizen meant to replace the messy classpath with modules with real dependency information

Other changes:

  • People seem to have gotten over the 1.x naming convention, almost no one calls this "Java 1.9".

Java 8 (a.k.a 1.8)

JSR 337, what's new

Language changes:

  • lambda expressions (JSR 335, includes method handles)
  • continuation of Project Coin (small language improvements)
  • annotations on Java types

Library changes:

Java 7 (a.k.a 1.7)

JSR 336, features and enhancements

Language changes:

Library changes:

Platform changes:

Java 6 (a.k.a 1.6)

JSR 270. features and enhancements

Mostly incremental improvements to existing libraries, no new language features (except for the @Override snafu).

Java 5 (a.k.a 1.5)

JSR 176, features and enhancements

Language Changes:

Library changes:

  • concurrency utilities in java.util.concurrent

Java 1.4

JSR 59

Language changes:

Library changes:

Java 1.3

Mostly minor improvements, really.

Platform changes:

  • HotSpot JVM: improvement over the original JIT

Java 1.2

Language changes:

Library changes:

Platform changes

  • a real JIT, greatly improving speed

Java 1.1

Language changes:

  • inner classes

Library changes:

  • AWT event changes
  • reflection

Java 1.0

Initial release, everything is new ;-)

  • 2
    The explanation for why Java 6 had so little changes seems to be at JSR 270 page: it looks like back then, they were experimenting with idea of time-driven releases instead of feature-driven: "goal is to ship feature releases on a regular 18-24 month cycle..."
    – gnat
    Apr 3, 2013 at 9:15
  • @gnat: that sounds about right, but the answer is stuffed enough as it is, I'd like to keep additional info like this out of the list. Apr 3, 2013 at 9:22
  • @JoachimSauer yup, your answer sounds about right without these details "embedded". Though... it probably wouldn't hurt if you add links to respective umbrella JSRs for 1.4 and later releases, that would implicitly cover it, along with maybe more details
    – gnat
    Apr 3, 2013 at 9:25
  • 1
    Hey Axel, please do not feel bad, at all. Certainly let's blame the web! Why can't we republish the contet from Wikipedia here on PE? Why do we have to resort to copy and paste? Why is there no mechanism to display content from Wikipedia in pE? IMO this should be basic stuff. Imagine java 1.9 comes out what do you think. Which page will be kept uptodate ?this answer is just copy and paste, programmers should avoid it, no? Apr 3, 2013 at 12:27
  • 1
    @AndreasScheinert: the focus of Wikipedia is different from SE. The full Wikipedia article would definitely be too much information for this question. Also, I think that the licenses would not allow copy-and-paste of content. Apr 3, 2013 at 14:27

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