Big changes are in the works for the world's second most popular programming language. Following Mozilla's announcement that its Firefox browser will not support most NPAPI plugins by the end of 2016, Oracle revealed yesterday that it plans to deprecate its popular Java browser plugin in the next development kit. The plugin will disappear entirely from the Oracle JDK and JRE in the near future.
Oracle indicates that this change has been motivated largely by the popularity of mobile devices. Web browsers for mobile devices typically lack support for plugins, and Oracle thinks browser makers like Mozilla would rather unify the features available to desktop and mobile versions. While not all desktop browsers are moving away from plugins, Oracle doesn't want to provide browser-specific plugins, as it believes that would lead to browser-specific applets capable of only a subset of Java's functionality.
As an alternative, Oracle encourages developers to migrate to its Java Web Start technology, which launches applications from links in web browsers. Java Web Start automatically downloads the files needed for the application, and keeps the files cached for later use. Whether users click on browser links or desktop icons, Java Web Start will always load the most current version of the application. If these changes affect you, you might want to take a peek at the early access releases of JDK 9.