JavaScript is not Java

At some point somebody a lot smarter than me (probably the first person who reads this) will see the title of this article and say “No duh! JavaScript and Java are completely different. What a waste of an article!”. You can actually find quite a bit of information on this topic out on the internet but let’s face it, anybody who isn’t in IT or Development probably doesn’t care anyway.

Since both of these technologies are used in ServiceNow though, this confusion often presents itself so it is good to be informed. First of all, you don’t need to know a thing about Java (or even care about it) to be successful in the administration, implementation, or configuration of ServiceNow.  No Java NecessaryYou don’t need to know a thing about Java to be successful in the administration, implementation, or configuration of ServiceNow.You heard correctly.  YOU DO NOT NEED TO KNOW JAVA!  This statement runs contrary to what you might hear from your boss, project manager, or even a ServiceNow developer or consultant job posting.  The underlying code that the ServiceNow platform is built on is built using the Java programming language.  Even the title ‘ServiceNow Developer’ is probably a little bit excessive unless you are one of the people working in the Development group in Solana Beach.  Those people know (and are required to know) Java extremely well and they use it (along with JavaScript) to bring us the awesome features that are part of the ServiceNow software platform.  Having said all of that, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have some knowledge of Java simply because that gives you an understanding of programming and scripting in general.

JavaScript, on the other hand, is the world that ServiceNow administrators and consultants live in.  Business Rules, Client Scripts, and UI Actions are all written in JavaScript.  JavaScript is the scripting language used to perform HTML manipulations in the browser (client-side g_form, etc.) and interact with the actual Java code on the back-end (server-side gs., current., etc.).  I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that to configure or enhance a mid to large sized ServiceNow deployment it is essential that you have someone who has a decent amount of knowledge about JavaScript or some other scripting language.  At the very minimum, they need to be someone who can pick up on it quickly.

Lots of very smart people have already written about the differences between Java and JavaScript.  If you’d like to learn more I’ll refer you to your preferred search engine.  Here are a couple of results I found today on Google.

Date Posted:

January 8, 2010

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  1. Roger Dingus February 6, 2010 at 10:38 am

    I’m an new admin at a new Service-now customer. We are just getting started. I have a programming and technical background so I pick on related things quickly. I do not have experience with any scripting language. What do you recommend as the fastest way for me to learn to be proficient enough with javascript as an admin?

  2. valor January 5, 2011 at 5:58 am

    I would note, however, once you get into super advanced stuff with Service-Now, it is helpful to at least have an undertstanding of the basics of Java, like how “classical” programming languages work, and what “classical” means. Tip: it’s not music, or necessarily old. :-)

    You will see in references in various parts of the system like:

    var ldap = new;
  3. sai February 2, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    Hi Mark,

    There was an opening for ServiceNow developer offered to us by our client, at first it was a System Administration then it became ServiceNow Developer which is requiring Java Programming. i was wondering because it runs contrary to your posting here, Are we going to perform actual Java Programming in our clients ServiceNow platform or just be limited with JavaScripting.

    More Power!

    • Mark Stanger February 2, 2012 at 5:56 pm

      I haven’t written a single line of Java in 5 years of working with ServiceNow. It’s helpful to understand from a coding standpoint, but is definitely not a requirement. JavaScript, on the other hand, is a critical skill of a good ServiceNow admin.

  4. sai February 3, 2012 at 7:49 am

    That’s a relief, thanks a lot! :)

  5. inderjit singh May 14, 2014 at 8:41 am


    I dont have any knowledge of programming language or Java script. Can I be a SNOW (Service Now) admin? Please help.

    • Mark Stanger May 14, 2014 at 8:44 am

      You can do a lot in ServiceNow without knowing scripting, but to be really effective you need to have some coding (Javascript, HTML, CSS, Web Services) experience. The good news is that there is a ton of information if you’re willing to learn. I recommend this SNGuru article (along with the ServiceNow wiki and community sites) as a good place to start.

  6. Geoffrey Bishop April 15, 2020 at 9:08 am

    Great article. Thanks.
    In my opinion, working with JavaScript is actually much HARDER than working with Java. 1) Often the Integrated Development Environment (IDE) you are in is less powerful; that means that the syntax-highlighting is weaker, and you have less features for navigating code, formatting code, a smaller window to work in, etc. 2) Also, JavaScript is not Type Safe, so it lets you shoot yourself in the foot more often. I think it lacks other features as well, such as blocked scoping. Also, often it’s unclear what APIs or Objects are available to you, to access. Additionally, when you are working with JavaScript, you are often working BOTH in a client environment and a server environment, and you have all the additional complexity that comes with network round-trips, web browsers and HTML. Working on a Windows App, or server-side only app, is MUCH easier. So for anyone who may be thinking Java = Hard + JavaScript = Easy. Wrong!

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