I have always wondered why Java does not do type inference given that the language is what it is, and its VM is very mature. Google's Go is an example of a language with excellent type inference and it reduces the amount of typing one has to do. Is there any special reason behind this feature not being a part of Java?
Technically speaking, Java does have type inferencing when using generics. With a generic method like
The compiler will analyze and understand that when you write
A String is going to be returned for the first call and an Integer for the second call based on what was input as an argument. You will get the proper compile-time checking as a result. Additionally, in Java 7, one can get some additional type inferencing when instantiating generics like so
Java is kind enough to fill in the blank angle brackets for us. Now why doesn't Java support type inferencing as a part of variable assignment? At one point, there was an RFE for type inferencing in variable declarations, but this was closed as "Will not fix" because
The contributor who closed this also noted that it just feels "un-java-like", which I am one to agree with. Java's verbosity can be both a blessing and a curse, but it does make the language what it is.
Of course that particular RFE was not the end of that conversation. During Java 7, this feature was again considered, with some test implementations being created, including one by James Gosling himself. Again, this feature was ultimately shot down.
With the release of Java 8, we now get type inference as a part of lambdas as such:
The Java compiler is able to look at the method
I can think of a few possible reasons. One is that explicit typing is self-documenting. Java generally makes this a priority over concision. Another reason might be in cases where the type is somewhat ambiguous. Like when a type or any subtype might satisfy a routine. Let's say you want to use a List, but someone comes along and uses a method exclusive to ArrayList. The JIT would infer an ArrayList and carry on even if you wanted a compilation error.
Well, first off, type inference has nothing to do with the maturity of the runtime, whether that runtime is a 30 year old CPU or a VM that is so new the bits are still shiny. it's all about the compiler.
That said, it is allowed for generics, the reason why it's not allowed for non-generic types seems to be because of philosophy -- there's nothing preventing the designers from adding it.
As far as I know, when Java was designed at the beginning of the nineties type inference was not that popular among mainstream languages (but it was already a very well known concept, e.g. in ML). So, I can imagine that type inference was probably not supported because Java was aimed at programmers coming from C++, Pascal, or other mainstream languages that did not have it (principle of least surprise).
Also, one of the design principles of Java is to write things explicitly to make sure that the programmer and the compiler have the same understanding of the code: duplicating information reduces the chances of errors. Of course, it may be a matter of taste whether typing a few more characters is worth the extra safety it provides, but this was the design philosophy followed for Java: write things explicitly.
I do not know if Java will get type inference in the future but IMO that would be a big revolution for the language (as Glenn Nelson mentioned, it was described as "un-java-like") and then one might also consider dropping the name Java in favour of a new name.
If you want to use a JVM language with type inference you can use Scala.