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Java Distributed Computing by Jim Farley

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The ClassLoader

The Java runtime environment is based upon a virtual machine that interprets, verifies, and executes classes in the form of platform-independent bytecodes. In addition, the Java API includes a mechanism for you to load class definitions in their bytecode form, and integrate them into the runtime environment so that instances of the classes can be constructed and used. When your Java files are compiled, a similar mechanism is invoked whenever an import statement is encountered. The referenced class or package of classes is loaded from files in bytecode format, using the CLASSPATH environment variable to locate them on the local file system.

In addition to this default policy for loading classes, the java.lang.ClassLoader class allows the user to define custom policies and mechanisms for locating and loading classes into the runtime environment. The ClassLoader is an abstract class. Subclasses must define an implementation for the loadClass() method, which is responsible for locating the class based upon the given string name, loading the bytecodes comprising the class definition, and (optionally) resolving the class. A class has to be resolved before it can be constructed or before any of its methods can be called. Resolving a class includes finding all of the other classes that it depends on, and loading them into the runtime as well.

The ClassLoader is an important element of the network support in the Java API. It’s used as the basis for supporting Java applets ...

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