Since JDK 1.4, it is possible to reload the implementation of class methods with newer versions, without restarting the application. This is called Hotswap. However, any change to the structure of your class is not supported and requires a complete restart.
Developers are more and more seeing the advantage of scripting languages for development and part of the reason is the fact that any change can immediately be seen in a running application.
It is technically possible to improve the Hotswap feature. Sun is looking for feedback about this, so that they can evaluate if it's worth dedicating resources to:
Are people really looking to do arbitrary
changes and instance conversion? We view type safety and
application consistency as very important. One approach is
to relax the restrictions and allow for some limited changes
- for example, the ability to add methods would address many
scenarios. We aren't making any commitments at this time but
we are looking for feedback.
If you have any suggestions or comments, join the discussion at Sun's developer network.