You don't need Java

Java is one of those technologies that you find installed on the majority of computer systems despite the fact that average users do not come across many Java-powered websites or desktop applications. Sure, some may use desktop applications like JDownloader or the game Minecraft (which both require Java), but on the Internet? Seriously, when was the last time you went to a website that required the Java Runtime Environment to be installed for core functionality?

Statistics can be misleading, but according to Statowl, Java is installed on roughly 70 percent of Web browsers, which makes it the second most popular plugin behind Adobe Flash, and places it before heavyweights such as Quicktime, Windows Media Player, or Silverlight.

According to W3Techs, only four percent of websites use Java on the server side. While that is certainly impressive, it is used by 0.2 percent of all websites on the client side. And two tenths of a percent includes sites that do not use it for their core functionality.

Still, there are sites and applications that require Java, and if you use any of them, you obviously need Java. But that makes you a minority. The majority of Internet users do not need Java. They do not need the Java plugin, nor do they need the Java Runtime Environment installed on their operating system. I'd even make the claim that the majority would not even notice if Java was uninstalled from their systems.

You are probably asking yourself why it matters if Java is installed on the system or not. The answer is simple: security. You may have read about the latest security vulnerability in Java that is actively exploited in the wild. It is a Web-based attack against Java 7 Update 6 and earlier. The thing is, if you have Java installed, you are vulnerable to that attack even if you are not actively using any Java contents on the Web.

Oracle fixed the issues in Java 7 Update 7, but it took researchers only a few hours to find yet another critical vulnerability in Java, leaving Java users open to attacks regardless whether they have updated to Update 7 or keep running an earlier version of Java.

You can test your Java version on the official Java website to find out if it is installed and enabled in your browser, and if it is, which version of Java you are running.

My recommendation to users that do not know if Java is installed on their system is to either disable the plugin in all Web browsers, or uninstall Java completely from the operating system.

The worst thing that can happen is that you will notice that an app or website is not working any more. All you need to do then is install the JRE anew to resolve the issue. Chance is however that you won't notice any changes after disabling or uninstalling Java on the system.

Disable Java

If you prefer to disable Java in your web browser instead, for instance if you rely on a Java desktop app that you can't or do not want to replace, then you can do that in the following ways:

  • Google Chrome - Type chrome://plugins in the browser's address bar and hit enter. Locate all instances of Java on the plugin page and click on disable to turn the plug-in off.
  • Mozilla Firefox - Type about:addons in the browser's address bar and hit enter. Switch to the plugins listing on the left and locate Java entries here. A click on the disable button turns Java off in the browser.
  • Opera - Type opera:plugins in the address bar of the web browser and hit enter. Locate all Java entries here and click on the disable link displayed at the end of each row to disable the plugin in Opera.
  • Internet Explorer - This is more complicated as Microsoft's browser does not ship with a plugin management page. You need to change a Registry value instead to disable Java in IE. Use Windows-r to bring up the run box on the system, type regedit and hit enter. This brings up the Windows Registry Editor. Navigate to the key HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings\Zones\3 and change the value of the key 1C00 to 0. Restart your computer afterwards or log off and on again.

I recommend that you visit the Java version check page after you have disabled the plugin in your web browser to make sure it is completely disabled.

What about you? Why do you have Java installed on your computers?

Photo Credit: Pavel Ignatov/Shutterstock

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