Java’s Bytecode


The key that allows Java to solve both the security and the portability problems just described is that the output of a Java compiler is not executable code. Rather, it is bytecode. Bytecode is a highly optimized set of instructions designed to be executed by the Java run-time system, which is called the Java Virtual Machine (JVM). That is, the Java Virtual Machine is an interpreter for bytecode. This may come as a bit of a surprise. As you know, most modern languages, such as C++, are designed to be compiled, not interpreted—mostly because of performance concerns.
 
However, the fact that a Java program is executed by the JVM helps solve the major problems associated with downloading programs over the Internet. Here is why. Translating a Java program into bytecode makes it much easier to run a program in a wide variety of environments.
 
The reason is straightforward: only the Java Virtual Machine needs to be implemented for each platform. Once the run-time package exists for a given system, any Java program can run on it. Remember that although the details of the JVM will differ from platform to platform, all understand the same
 
Java bytecode. If a Java program were compiled to native code, then different versions of the same program would have to exist for each type of CPU connected to the Internet. This is, of course, not a feasible solution. Thus, the interpretation of bytecode is the easiest way to create truly portable programs. The fact that a Java program is interpreted also helps make it secure. Because the execution of every Java program is under the control of the JVM, the JVM can contain the program and prevent it from generating side effects outside the system. Safety is also enhanced by certain restrictions that exist in the Java language. When a program is interpreted, it generally runs substantially slower than the same program would run if compiled to executable code.