Renaissance of JavaScript

Projecting a history of civilization to programming language

I’ve heard about JavaScript about 15 years ago. I only knew it’s a technology that brings a life into web pages, primarily used to display alerts, validate inputs and animate navigation menus.

I remember that JavaScript didn’t impress me much. It seemed to be dumb language with a limited purpose. It didn’t give a freedom to create anything you want. Only small, browser-in applications. It was a bit shame to call them applications, rather small scripts for very simple browser tasks.

For a long time JavaScript had a bad reputation. And there was a several reasons for that.

Somewhere from 1996 till 2000's there were a famous Browser Wars. Both Microsoft and Netscape foresaw the power of client side applications. Since they didn’t collaborate to each other, there was a gap between IE and Netscape JavaScript implementation, that made a lot of difficulties to develop cross-browser applications.

Second, JavaScript as language wasn’t taken seriously. After quick glance on syntax, you can clearly see similarities with C++ or Java, so impression was — “I know this language.. almost”. Blindly applying the knowledge learnt from other languages to JavaScript, without trying to understand it’s philosophy led to bad design and overall frustration.

And finally, there was almost no tools that made JavaScript development easy and pleasant. No good IDE’s, code analysis tools, debuggers and best practices. Since JavaScript primary job was DOM manipulation, unclear DOM interfaces and specs made it even worse.

Those three major factors combined in one, made anyone who tried to use JavaScript literally suffer. A lot of people hated JavaScript.

That period of time could be referred as Middle Ages of JavaScript.

JavaScript has not yet become primary language for developers. The term large-scale JavaScript application hasn’t been coined yet, as well as profession of JavaScript developer didn’t exist that time.

Because of lack in JavaScript expertise large vendors started to produce technologies that abstract JavaScript programming away. That seemed to be like a good idea — stay in your comfort zone, we’ll do dirty job for you.

But raise of AJAX based application popularity changed the history.

A lot of people realised that you can do cool things with JavaScript. jQuery was a miracle that turn DOM manipulation from nightmare into productive process. People started to learn jQuery basically, during the way understanding fundamental concepts of language.

ES5 has been released in 2009 and major browsers adopted it quickly. It bring the language to a new level. New great books about JavaScript appeared.

Release of Chromium project and V8 JavaScript engine to open source, gave a great pulse for further development. But besides of that, few bright heads adopted the technology to something what we currently know as Node.js.

That was synergetic movement. JavaScript suddenly became really popular and it’s popularity raised every single day.

Dark Ages stayed in past, end of 2000's was the time than JavaScript merged to Renaissance.

Nowadays, JavaScript became truly general purpose language.

You can create anything you want: clients and servers, command line utilities, games, control hardware devices etc. We have good IDE’s, text editors, frameworks helping to implement application much more faster and reliably.

The community, which is the most important part of every technology, is very large and keeps growing. Now I know people who’s first programming language is JavaScript. Front End development are treated as speciality.

We have huge conferences, local events, online courses, discussion panels — all dedicated to JavaScript. We have passion towards language and related technologies. Almost all popular languages can be compiled down to JavaScript.

That’s are clear signs of Renaissance for JavaScript. Renaissance was a time when people became creative. And JavaScript is currently a place where creativity thrive.