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Why String is immutable or final in Java

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What is immutable object , what are the benefits of immutable object , why do you use it and which scenarios do you use it.

asked Nov 14, 2011 in Java/J2EE by anonymous
    

1 Answer

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In object-oriented and functional programming, an immutable object is an object whose state cannot be modified after it is created.[1] This is in contrast to a mutable object, which can be modified after it is created. In some cases, an object is considered immutable even if some internally used attributes change but the object's state appears to be unchanging from an external point of view. For example, an object that uses memoization to cache the results of expensive computations could still be considered an immutable object.

Immutable objects are often useful because they are inherently thread safe.[1] Other benefits are that they are simpler to understand and reason about and offer higher security than mutable objects.[1]

However, making an object immutable is usually inappropriate if the object contains a large amount of changeable data. Because of this, many languages allow for both immutable and mutable objects.

Though there could be many possible answer for this question and only designer of String class can answer this , I think below two does make sense

1)Imagine StringPool facility without making string immutable , its not possible at all because in case of string pool one string object/literal e.g. "Test" has referenced by many reference variables , so if any one of them change the value others will be automatically gets affected i.e. lets say

String A = "Test"
String B = "Test"

Now String B called "Test".toUpperCase() which change the same object into "TEST" , so A will also be "TEST" which is not desirable.

2)String has been widely used as parameter for many java classes e.g. for opening network connection you can pass hostname and port number as stirng , you can pass database URL as string for opening database connection, you can open any file by passing name of file as argument to File I/O classes.

In case if String is not immutable , this would lead serious security threat , I mean some one can access to any file for which he has authorization and then can change the file name either deliberately or accidentally and gain access of those file.

3)Since String is immutable it can safely shared between many threads ,which is very important for multithreaded programming and to avoid any synchronization issues in Java.

4) Another reason of Why String is immutable in Java is to allow String to cache its hashcode , being immutable String in Java caches its hashcode and do not calculate every time we call hashcode method of String, which makes it very fast as hashmap key to be used in hashmap in Java.  This one is also suggested by  Jaroslav Sedlacek in comments below.

5) Another good reason of Why String is immutable in Java suggested by Dan Bergh Johnsson on comments is: The absolutely most important reason that String is immutable is that it is used by the class loading mechanism, and thus have profound and fundamental security aspects.
Had String been mutable, a request to load "java.io.Writer" could have been changed to load "mil.vogoon.DiskErasingWriter"


I believe there could be some more very convincing reasons also , Please post those reasons as comments.

 

Ref: http://javarevisited.blogspot.com/2010/10/why-string-is-immutable-in-java.html

answered Nov 14, 2011 by sarada Hot Users (2,340 points)

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