Javascript: A Brief History Lesson

JavaScript is found on every major web browser we use today. However, in 1995 when the language was first introduced, it was only available on the then popular Netscape Navigator browser. Brendan Eich, the creator of JavaScript, was under pressure by his employer Netscape to create a language very quickly before the release of the Netscape 2.0 beta. A functional prototype of JavaScript was created under 2 weeks, which is pretty mind blowing to think about at hindsight. It was originally named Mocha, but at the time, the programming language Java was gaining notoriety, and in a last ditch effort by Netscape to market Mocha, they renamed it to JavaScript. Needless to say, this caused some confusion as Java and JavaScript were often refered to interchangeably.

JavaScript brought programming to the World Wide Web, allowing interactivity that did not require a page reload for every action initiated. It has been periodically updated and standarized since its release by the Ecma International organization. This standardization is called the ECMAScript standard, and as of right now, ECMAScript version 6 (aka ES6) is the most recent update.


You might be wondering why JavaScript has been hailed the most popular programming language for web. Well, it hasn't always been that way. At it's inception, JavaScript was known for being the programming language for web authors who were deemed amateur, wannabe programmers. It was intended to be an accompaniment to Java, adding simple interactivity to the DOM. To do this day, although JavaScript is more widely accepted among the programming community, there are inherent features of the language that are often criticized and have to had to be improved upon on later iterations of the language:

  • no deliberate block scoping (ES6 introduced the new let keyword that allows you to block scope without using a function)
  • lack of classes
  • no built-in module system (ES6, again, solved this my introducing import and export statements)
  • automatic type coercion when using an operator like ==
  • automatic insertion of semicolons


As time went on, with the introduction of web techniques such as AJAX, JavaScript began to be taken more seriously as a potential programming language for building full-scale web applications. This turn roughly began after ECMAScript 5 was released in 2009. Between 1999, when ECMAScript 3 was released, and 2009, tension within the Ecma committee arose and this revolved around whether JavaScript should continue to be developed as a language supportive of large-scale application development.

Compared to ECMAScript 3, ECMAScript 5 was a modest updated since there were virtually no syntactic changes. But these improvements were leading to JavaScript becoming a language that could be capable of producing large scale projects. This is where ECMAScript 2015 (ES6) enters the picture.

ES6/ECMAScript 2015

A lot of the major syntactic changes were introduced in ECMAScript 2015. Some of these changes include:

  • let and const block-scoped constructs
  • Template literals
  • Arrow functions
  • Spread syntax
  • Module syntax
  • Promises
  • Classes
  • Multi-line strings
  • And much more


There is no doubt that JavaScript is the dominant, standard language of the web today. With the rise of single-page applications and Node.js which runs JavaScript server-side, JavaScript should be sticking around for quite some time.