Observer is deprecated in Java 9. What should we use instead of it?

+73 votes
asked Sep 23, 2017 by curious95

Java 9 came out, and Observer has been deprecated. Why is that? Does it mean that we shouldn't implement observer pattern anymore?

It would be good to know what is a better alternative?

3 Answers

+19 votes
answered Sep 23, 2017 by ravi

Yes, it is deprecated in Java 9. And, we can't implement observer pattern anymore.


Why is that?

There are more reasons :

Not Serializable - Since, Observable doesn't implements Serializable. So, you can't Serialize Observable neither its subclass.

No Thread Safety - The methods can be overridden by its subclasses, and event notification can occur in different orders and possibly on different threads, which is enough to disrupt any "thread safety".

Less to offer -

They don't provide a rich enough event model for applications. For example, they support only the notion that something has changed, but they don't convey any information about what has changed

Open Issues - As mentioned, there were lot of major issues raised (thread safety, Serializable) and most of them had complexities to fix and still "not fixed" or No Active Development, and that is the reason why it has been deprecated.

I would also recommend to read this answer Why should the observer pattern be deprecated?, @Jeff has explained other reasons for deprecation.


So, what's the alternative we have ?

You can use PropertyChangeEvent and PropertyChangeListener from java.beans package.

+57 votes
answered Sep 23, 2017 by nullpointer

Why is that? Does it mean that we shouldn't implement observer pattern anymore?

Answering the latter part first -

YES, it does mean you shouldn't implement Observer and Obervables anymore.

Why were they deprecated -

They didn't provide a rich enough event model for applications. For example, they could support only the notion that something has changed, but didn't convey any information about what has changed.

Alex's answer puts it nicely upfront that Observer has a weakness: all Observables are the same. You have to implement the logic that is based on instanceof and cast object to concrete type into Observable.update() method.

To add to it there were bugs like one could not serialize the Observable class because as it didn't implement Serializable interface and all of its members were private.

What is a better alternative to that?

On the other hand Listeners have a lot of types and they have callback methods and doesn't require casting. As pointed by @Ravi in his answer you can make use of PropertyChangeListener instead.

For the rest of it the @Deprecation has been marked with proper documentation to explore other packages as linked in other answers as well.


Note that the deprecation was also marked with an analysis as stated in this mail -

These days, anyone encountering these is probably hitting them by mistake while using RxJava or other reactive-stream frameworks. In which case, users will normally want to instead use the jdk9 java.util.concurrent.Flow APIs that all reactive-streams frameworks should be compatible/interoperable within their planned upcoming jdk9-compatible versions.

Edit: Its also worth mentioning that the deprecation of the APIs is not primarily just because of the above reason but also being unable to maintain such legacy code as mentioned in comments of few of the bug reports(linked above) which were raised to mark an improvement in its implementaion in one or the other way.

+2 votes
answered Oct 4, 2017 by mohit-tyagi

Why Observer is deprecated in Java 9?

Ans: The Observable class and the Observer interface have been deprecated in Java 9 because the event model supported by Observer and Observable is quite limited, the order of notifications delivered by Observable is unspecified, and state changes are not in one-for-one correspondence with notifications.

See Java doc https://docs.oracle.com/javase/9/docs/api/java/util/Observable.html

Alternate of Observer pattern?

There are many alternatives of Observer design pattern and Reactive Streams is one of them.

Reactive Streams or Flow API:

Flow is a class introduced in Java 9 and has 4 interrelated interfaces : Processor, Publisher, Subscriber and Subscription.

Flow.Processor : A component that acts as both a Subscriber and Publisher.

Flow.Publisher : A producer of items received by Subscribers.

Flow.Subscriber : A receiver of messages.

Flow.Subscription: Message control linking a Flow.Publisher and Flow.Subscriber.

See Java doc https://docs.oracle.com/javase/9/docs/api/java/util/concurrent/Flow.html

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