Java Web Start, first introduced for J2SE 1.3, allows provisioning of applications over the Web by clicking a desktop icon or a link on a website.
The Java language has undergone several changes since JDK 1.0 as well as numerous additions of classes and packages to the standard library. Since J2SE 1.4, the evolution of the Java language has been governed by the Java Community Process (JCP), which uses Java Specification Requests (JSRs) to propose and specify additions and changes to the Java platform. The language is specified by the Java Language Specification (JLS); changes to the JLS are managed under JSR 901.
In addition to the language changes, much more dramatic changes have been made to the Java Class Library over the years, which has grown from a few hundred classes in JDK 1.0 to over three thousand in J2SE 5. Entire new APIs, such as Swing and Java2D, have been introduced, and many of the original JDK 1.0 classes and methods have been deprecated. Some programs allow conversion of Java programs from one version of the Java platform to an older one (for example Java 5.0 backported to 1.4) (see Java backporting tools).
After the Java 7 release, Oracle promised to go back to a 2 year release cycle. However, in 2013, Oracle announced that they would delay Java 8 by one year, in order to improve the Java security model.
Alpha and Beta Java public releases had highly unstable APIs and ABIs. The supplied Java web browser was named WebRunner.
JDK 1.0 (January 23, 1996)
Originally called Oak. Initial release The first stable version, JDK 1.0.2, is called Java 1.
Note : In versions of Java and the JDK up to 1.0.1, private and protected keywords could be used together to create yet another form of protection that would restrict access to methods or variables solely to subclasses of a given class. As of 1.0.2, this capability has been removed from the language.
integrated security and cryptography extensions (JCE, JSSE, JAAS)
Java Web Start included (Java Web Start was first released in March 2001 for J2SE 1.3) (Specified in JSR 56.)
Preferences API (java.util.prefs)
Support and security updates for Java 1.4 ended in October 2008.
J2SE 5.0 (September 30, 2004)
Codename Tiger. Originally numbered 1.5, which is still used as the internal version number. The number was changed to "better reflect the level of maturity, stability, scalability and security of the J2SE."  This version was developed under JSR 176.
J2SE 5.0 entered its end-of-public-updates period on April 8, 2008; updates are no longer available to the public as of November 3, 2009. Updates will be available to Oracle Customers until May 2014.
Tiger added a number of significant new language features:
Metadata: Also called annotations; allows language constructs such as classes and methods to be tagged with additional data, which can then be processed by metadata-aware utilities. (Specified by JSR 175.)
Enumerations: The enum keyword creates a typesafe, ordered list of values (such as Day.MONDAY, Day.TUESDAY, etc.). Previously this could only be achieved by non-typesafe constant integers or manually constructed classes (typesafe enum pattern). (Specified by JSR 201.)
Varargs: The last parameter of a method can now be declared using a type name followed by three dots (e.g. void drawtext(String... lines)). In the calling code any number of parameters of that type can be used and they are then placed in an array to be passed to the method, or alternatively the calling code can pass an array of that type.
Enhanced for each loop: The for loop syntax is extended with special syntax for iterating over each member of either an array or any Iterable, such as the standard Collection classes. (Specified by JSR 201.)
Scanner class for parsing data from various input streams and buffers.
Java 5 is the last release of Java to officially support the Microsoft Windows 9x line (Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME), while Windows Vista is the newest version of Windows that J2SE 5 was supported on prior to Java 5 going end of life in October 2009.
Java 5 is the default version of Java installed on Apple Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard). Java 6 can be installed and set as the default to be used on 64-bit (Core 2 Duo and higher) processor machines. Java 6 is also supported by 32-bit machines running Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard).
Java SE 6 (December 11, 2006)
Codename Mustang. As of this version, Sun replaced the name "J2SE" with Java SE and dropped the ".0" from the version number. Internal numbering for developers remains 1.6.0. This version was developed under JSR 270.
During the development phase, new builds including enhancements and bug fixes were released approximately weekly. Beta versions were released in February and June 2006, leading up to a final release that occurred on December 11, 2006.
Support for older Win9x versions dropped; unofficially, Java 6 Update 7 was the last release of Java shown to work on these versions of Windows. This is believed[by whom?] to be due to the major changes in Update 10.
Dramatic performance improvements for the core platform, and Swing.
Java 6 reached the end of its supported life in February 2013, at which time all updates, including security updates, were scheduled to be stopped. Oracle released one more update to Java 6 in March 2013, which patched some security vulnerabilities.
Java 6 updates
After Java 6 release, Sun, and later Oracle, released several updates which, while not changing any public API, enhanced end-user usability or fixed bugs.
HotSpot VM 14. This release includes extensive performance updates to the JIT compiler, compressed pointers for 64-bit machines, as well as support for the G1 (Garbage First) low pause garbage collector.
Some developers have noticed an issue introduced in this release which causes debuggers to miss breakpoints seemingly randomly. Sun has a corresponding bug, which is tracking the issue. The workaround applies to the Client and Server VMs. Using the -XX:+UseParallelGC option will prevent the failure. Another workaround is to roll back to update 13, or to upgrade to update 16.
No security fixes; Hotspot VM 20; support for Internet Explorer 9, Firefox 4 and Chrome 10; improved BigDecimal; includes "tiered" compilation in the Server VM that enables it to start quickly as does the Client VM, while achieving better peak performance (this feature is enabled by specifying -server and -XX:+TieredCompilation command options)
Not available publicly, only available through the Java SE Support program and in Solaris 10's Recommended Patchset Cluster no. #54.[not in citation given]
Java SE 7 (July 28, 2011)
Java 7 (codename Dolphin) is a major update that was launched on July 7, 2011 and was made available for developers on July 28, 2011. The development period was organized into thirteen milestones; on June 6, 2011, the last of the thirteen milestones was finished. On average, 8 builds (which generally included enhancements and bug fixes) were released per milestone. The feature list at the OpenJDK 7 project lists many of the changes.
Lambda (Java's implementation of lambda functions), Jigsaw (Java's implementation of modules), and part of Coin were dropped from Java 7. Java 8 will be released with the remaining features (except for Jigsaw, which will be in Java 9).
Java 7 updates
Oracle plans to issue updates to the Java 7 family on a quarterly basis.
JavaFX and Java Access Bridge included in Java SE JDK and JRE installation, JavaFX support for touch-enabled monitors and touch pads, JavaFX support for Linux, JDK and JRE Support for Mac OS X, JDK for Linux on ARM
Olson Data 2012i, bugfix for problems with registration of plugin on systems with Stand-alone version of JavaFX Installed, security fixes for CVE-2013-0422; the default security level for Java applets and web start applications has been increased from "Medium" to "High"
36 security fixes, block JAVA applets without manifest (like Remote console – Java Applet – IBM IMM card, HP iLO card) even if warning dialog is with sentence "will be blocked in next version".
Java 8 (codenames have been discontinued, but the codename Spider is common among Java developers) was released on 18 March 2014 and included some features that were planned for Java 7 but later deferred.
JSR 335, JEP 126: Language-level support for lambda expressions (officially, lambda expressions; unofficially, closures) under Project Lambda and default methods (virtual extension methods)  which make multiple inheritance possible in Java. There was an ongoing debate in the Java community on whether to add support for lambda expressions. Sun later declared that lambda expressions would be included in Java and asked for community input to refine the feature. Supporting lambda expressions also allows to perform functional-style operations on streams of elements, such as MapReduce transformations on collections. Default methods allow an author of API to add new methods to an interface without breaking the old code using it. It also provides a way to use multiple inheritance, multiple inheritance of implementation more precisely.
Using "*" in Caller-Allowable-Codebase attribute; bug fixes
Java SE 9
At JavaOne 2011, Oracle discussed features they hope to have in a 2016 release of Java 9, including better support for multi-gigabyte heaps, better native code integration, and a self-tuning JVM.