JavaScript (JS) is a prototype-based interpreted computer programming language that was originally implemented as part of web browsers so that client-side scripts may interact with the user, control the browser, communicate asynchronously and alter the document content that is displayed. Javascript is dynamic, weakly typed and has first-class functions. It uses syntax influenced by the language C. JavaScript copies many names and naming conventions from Java, but the two languages are otherwise unrelated and have very different semantics. Javascript is also a versatile, multi-paradigm language, supporting object-oriented, imperative, and functional programming styles.

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JavaScript – Powerful

This multi-faceted programming language is now exploding all over the technology landscape and can be seen anywhere from simple websites to complicated mobile applications and even on real-time interactive servers with the help of node.js. To understand more about this amazing language, let’s dig a little deeper into its history.

History

JavaScript was originally developed in Netscape, by Brendan Eich. Battling with Microsoft over the Internet, Netscape considered their client-server solution as a distributed OS, running a portable version of Sun Microsystems’ Java. Because Java was a competitor of C++ and aimed at professional programmers, Netscape also wanted a lightweight interpreted language that would complement Java by appealing to nonprofessional programmers, like Microsoft’s Visual Basic.

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The Browsers Landscape

Developed under the name Mocha, LiveScript was the official name for the language when it first shipped in beta releases of Netscape Navigator 2.0 in September 1995, but it was renamed JavaScript when it was deployed in the Netscape browser version 2.0. Netscape introduced an implementation of the language for server-side scripting with Netscape Enterprise Server. JavaScript very quickly gained widespread success as a client-side scripting language for web pages. Microsoft introduced JavaScript support in its own web browser, Internet Explorer, in version 3.0, released in August 1996.

JavaScript has quickly become one of the most popular programming languages on the web. Initially, however, many professional programmers denigrated the language because its target audience was web authors and other such “amateurs”, among other reasons. The advent of Ajax returned JavaScript to the spotlight and brought more professional programming attention. The result was a proliferation of comprehensive frameworks and libraries such as the later jQuery, improved JavaScript programming practices, and increased usage of JavaScript outside of web browsers, as seen by the proliferation of server-side JavaScript platforms such as node.js.

Rebirth

At first, as noted above, Javascript (a predominantly browser scripting language) was shunned by seasoned developers for all its quirks and inconsistencies developed over time across different platforms as well as for its potential to derive bad coding practices. It was considered difficult to tame the language. But then it was standardized using the ECMAScript standard and suddenly the quirks between different browsers were reduced. At about the same time, the intelligent folks at jQuery, came out with the jQuery framework and library for javascript and suddenly the browsers were tamed. The developers could use an easy to learn library to do all the powerful stuff that Javascript was meant to do without worrying about the underlying quirks and behavioral inconsistencies. Other libraries (even ones that existed before), followed the lead of jQuery.

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Some of the more well-known Javascript Libraries

Asynchronous, responsive applications that made heavy use of Javascript started to pop up all over the internet pioneered mainly by Google on applications such as Gmail, Google Docs, Google Maps and other such cool innovative technologies. Javascript had arrived (again) and it was better and easier than ever and the jQuery and competing libraries (mootools, prototype, etc.) made it much more difficult to write obscure and bad code.

Rise

What many beginning to medium-level programmers and even some expert Javascript developers don’t realize is just how powerful this programming language is. If you have only ever used javascript through jQuery or other such libraries, you are missing out on many of the amazing core functionality that the language provides.

When Google released Gmail that was a full blown mailing client, contact app and calendar rolled into one online browsers based application, it was already toeing with the limits of the Javascript language. When Google release its Chrome browsers, partly in order to improve javascript performance, other browsers such as Firefox, Internet Explorer and Opera followed suit and beefed up its javascript support and performance. Google Chrome also pushed and gave urgency to Google’s initiative for stronger standardization of web technologies across browsers via the new standard: HTML5.

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Google Apps makes heavy use of Javascript

Although reluctant at first (as evidenced by the introduction of the competing silverlight technology that was later binned), Microsoft also started to comply with the standards push, releasing IE7, IE8, IE9 and now IE10 in quick succession with each version more standards compliant and faster than the previous one. Although there is still some way to go for IE to catch up with the others, there is considerable progress on that front.

Now HTML 5 is a huge slew of initiatives covering not only CSS, HTML and JavaScript standards but 2d and 3d graphics, full-duplex I/O with WebSockets (and half-duplex with EventSource), sounds, video… In fact if you stand back and squint you could be forgiven for mistaking the HTML 5 ecosystem for an entire operating system. Whose system language is JavaScript.

Continued

As this post is growing a lot longer that I had initially expected, we have decided to split up this post into 2 parts. Click here to go to the second part of this post and find out more about Javascript and its colorful and eventful life. You can subscribe to this blog using our RSS feed at the top right.

The Rise and Rise of Javascript – The Omnipresent Programming Language

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