The History of JavaScript [INFOGRAPHIC]

Brendan Eich, a Netscape Communications Corporation programmer, created JavaScript in September 1995. It took Eich only 10 days to develop the scripting language, then known as Mocha.Let’s step back to look at this complex JavaScript history.

Why Put the Java in JavaScript?

When Eich created JavaScript in 1995, he created it for Netscape Navigator and it quickly became known as LiveScript. In another quirk of JavaScript history, the team changed the name to JavaScript to reflect Netscape’s support of Java within its browser. While this definitely sounds confusing (and yes, it confuses people to this day), at the time people said it was a “marketing tactic” to connect a brand new language (JavaScript) to a popular language at the time (Java), regardless of the fact that JavaScript and Java have almost nothing to do with each other.

The way Eich saw it, higher-end programmers used Java and it might be considered a “component language.” Eich created JavaScript to fill the need for a “glue language” used by informal programmers and designers. This allowed programmers to use JavaScript to put together components and automate interactions.

At this point in our JavaScript history, there were two dominating web browsers: Netscape Navigator (with JavaScript) and Internet Explorer (with Jscript). And by the time the browser world shifted and Internet Explorer became the dominant browser, JavaScript evolved into the endorsed standard for writing interactive processing run in a web browser.

JavaScript History Turns to ECMA

By 1996, JavaScript’s importance grew so much that it was handed over to an international standards scripting language body called ECMA (European Computer Manufacturers Association), which is responsible for the development and upkeep of this language to this day. As a result, the scripting language was officially given the name ‘ECMAScript’ (or ‘ECMA-262’), however people still call it JavaScript.

ECMA standards process runs in cycles – ECMAScript 2 was released in 1998, and ECMAScript 3 was released in 1999, which evolved into today’s modern JavaScript. Even though Microsoft proceeded to implement some of the proposals in their JScript language, it became clear that Microsoft would not implement JavaScript in Internet Explorer.

Macromedia & Adobe Join

In 2005, Eich and Mozilla joined ECMA to assist with E4X (ECMA-357), leading to a collaboration with Macromedia (acquired by Adobe), who were working to implement E4X in ActionScript 3. The goal with this collaboration was to standardize what was in AS3 and to implement it within SpiderMonkey. As a result, Adobe released Tamarin, an open source project originating from AVM2.

Open Source’s Evolving Role

Simultaneously, open source and developer communities were also working to revolutionize JavaScript and what could be done with it, and the community’s impact peaked with a paper released in 2005 by Jesse James Garrett  which described a set of technologies which JavaScript supported as a backbone and where he created the term Ajax. This paper resulted in a surge of developers gravitating towards JavaScript and the open source communities and libraries around it. The new libraries released included jQuery, Prototype and Dojo.

The advantage of Ajax returned JavaScript to the spotlight and brought more professional programming attention. The result was a proliferation of comprehensive frameworks and libraries, improved JavaScript programming practices, and increased usage of JavaScript outside web browsers, as seen by the proliferation of server-side JavaScript platforms.

The next step in JavaScript history came in 2008, when the many involved parties came together in Oslo, which resulted in the agreement to drive the language towards using an agenda known as Harmony (EcmaScript 6).

Creating a Common Standard Library

In January 2009, the CommonJS project was founded with the goal of specifying a common standard library mainly for JavaScript development outside the browser. With the rise of single-page applications and JavaScript-heavy sites, it is increasingly being used as a compile target for source-to-source compilers from both dynamic languages and static languages.

By 2016, statistics showed that about 92% of all websites use JavaScript – including some of the world’s biggest websites such as Google and Facebook. And thanks to JavaScript, elements that make such websites what they are today are possible. For example, without JavaScript we wouldn’t have the real-time notifications that we have grown accustomed to seeing today.

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The History of JavaScript

JavaScript Today

Today, JavaScript is still everywhere – it’s the most commonly used client-side scripting language. JavaScript is written into HTML documents and enables interactions with web pages in many unique ways. For example, thanks to JavaScript we can automatically schedule appointments and play online games. Furthermore, new developments, such as Node.js, allow the use of JavaScript on server-side while APIs, such as HTML5, allow the control of user media and other device features.

JavaScript history is complex, but it’s not over. This is where it can get (potentially) dangerous – with the wild expansion of JavaScript comes a new turf for hackers to play on. Secure coding best practices are essential for all development and scripting languages – learn more about secure coding for JavaScript.

The JavaScript Guide: Web Application Secure Coding Practices - Whitepaper


This post was originally published February 12, 2018.

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Arden Rubens

Social Media Manager & Content Writer at Checkmarx

Arden is the social media manager and a content writer at Checkmarx. Her blogs focus on cyber security trends and the latest developments in the world of AppSec.
She aims to educate and inspire developers, security professionals, and organizations to find the best defense against online threats.

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