JavaScript Origins

Fun fact: JavaScript, the undisputed king of the client, was written in 10 days by a single programmer. Of course, it did not have all the features of the JavaScript that we know and love today (you do love it, don’t you?).

JavaScript is now being used by over 69% of developers and 94% of all websites use it to build out their dynamic application logic. It’s come a long way since its inception in the mid-90s but let’s talk about how it all started off.

 

A quick walk down memory lane

The year was 1995. Batman Forever was in theatres, eBay had just started their online shopping website and Netscape was the most popular browser. This was during the time of the browser wars which was between Netscape’s Netscape Navigator and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Java was a lot more popular back then. It was the rich client application model of those days when you could create applets and have rich client experience with the browser.

Netscape’s goal at that time was to bring in a scripting language that was basic enough for designers and amateurs to use and Java wasn’t the answer as it was considered a ‘professional’ language for advanced developers. That’s when Netscape decided to hire Brenden Eich who was tasked with writing a scripting language for Netscape Navigator. It took Brenden 10 days (and 10 sleepless nights) to write the first iteration of JavaScript which was called Mocha. This name was short-lived and was soon changed to LiveScript. It wasn’t long before LiveScript was changed to its final name — JavaScript. Even though, JavaScript has almost zero resemblance with Java, it was given this name as a marketing ploy as Java was gaining a lot of momentum back then.

 

ES what now?

Now if you’ve been using JavaScript for a few years, you’ve surely come across the term ES5, ES6.. ESX. People say it is a version or standard of JavaScript but what the heck do they mean by that? To clarify this, let’s go back to the 90s.

Microsoft was busy working on Internet Explorer and since JavaScript did not conform to any standards, they came up with their implementation and called it JScript. This lead to a major issue. Different implementations meant that a website built using Microsoft’s JScript would not work in Netscape Navigator and vice versa. To resolve this issue, Netscape submitted JavaScript to ECMA International for standardisation. ECMA International is an organisation that is responsible for creating standards for technologies. The initial standardised product was called ECMAScript or ES1 and that’s how the ES-naming started. Every time you see ES followed by a number, it is referencing an edition of ECMAScript.

Put simply, ECMAScript is a specification for what a scripting language could look like. Think of it as a blueprint or concept of some sort. JavaScript is the actual implementation of that blueprint.

 

Conclusion

JavaScript has quite a fascinating history and even though it’s considered to be one of the most disliked languages in the tech world, it has evolved substantially over the last decade. Some of the most widely-used frameworks are built using JavaScript such as React and Node.js. and with more and more tech giants (eg: Atlassian, Facebook, UberNetflix, eBay) adopting these technologies every day, I doubt we’ll see JavaScript drop in popularity any time soon.


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