A Brief History of JavaScript


There is still a lot of confusion about JavaScript mostly because of its name, people think its a derived scripting language based on Java. So what is JavaScript ? Is it a scripting or programming language ? Why is everyone using it ? How is it better/worse than other languages ?

By the end of this blog you would have a pretty good idea about the inception of JavaScript and wont feel left out during tech discussions.

Not so long ago, in a place not so far, the internet had just started evolving and there were a need of web browsers to access it. Mosaic was one of the first ones to take a lead in this race because it was also the first browser to display images inline with text instead of displaying images in a separate window, yeah ! pretty cool for that time. During that time a bunch of guys wanted to create a online gaming network for Nintendo, so they hired some guys from Mosaic but ended up delaying the project. Being optimistic they decide to use their resources in the right directions and started building the best web browser. They named their company Mosiac Communication and their first product was launched in 94 by the name of Mosaic Netscape. They had some balls for poaching employees from NCSA Mosaic and then naming their company and the product after it. But soon they had some copyright issues and they started calling it Netscape Navigator, but kept on calling their internally browser as Mozilla — Mosiac Killer !


Netscape Navigator was a huge success and had already taken nearly 75% of the entire browser market during the first 4 months of their release. It became a default browser in a short time. These guys were ruling for some time but soon they were against the Big Fish — Microsoft, so they decided to collaborate with another Big Fish — Sun Microsystems to include Java for adoption on all platforms. Things didn’t turn out as planned and they ended up creating a scripting language which sort of acts as a glue language for HTML. It was easy to use by Web designers and part-time programmers, where the code could be written directly in the Web page markup. It was developed under the name Mocha, the language was officially called LiveScript, but it was renamed JavaScript when it was deployed in December 95. They played the same trick again to name it after an existing language to give it a cachet of what was then the hot new Web programming language hence creating all the confusion.


The browser war lasted for a long time between Netscape Navigator(NN) and Internet Explorer(IE). In 97 after release of IE 4 and having an all night party in San Francisco, the Microsoft guys erected a ten-foot-tall letter “e” logo on Netscape’s front lawn, with a sign attached that read “From the IE team … We Love You”. The next morning when every one at Netscape arrived to the office, they saw this giant logo and without thinking twice they knocked it over and put up a giant figure of their Mozilla dinosaur mascot atop it, holding a sign reading “Netscape 72, Microsoft 18” representing the market distribution at that time. Things started going down hill for Netscape since then as their only source of income was through the browser which Microsoft started shipping IE for free. Also Microsoft Windows had over 90% share of the desktop operating system market. Internet Explorer was bundled with every copy of Windows, therefore Microsoft was able to dominate the market share easily as customers had it as the default browser. Netscape could not keep up with this and finally sold itself and IE ruled the internet with 96% of web browser usage share.


JavaScript survived the browser war safely in the hands of ECMA International where they carved it into a standard specification. Microsoft also wanted a similar script for IE, but did not want to deal with Sun Microsystems about the trademark issue, and so they called their implementation JScript. Now developers had to work hard to make their sites work in all browsers and because IE was extensively used then, JavaScript began to acquire a reputation for being one of the roadblocks to a cross-platform and standards-driven Web. Over time it was clear though that Microsoft had no intention of cooperating or implementing proper JavaScript in Internet Explorer. Later Yahoo, Microsoft, Google and some others got together to form their own subcommittee to design a less ambitious update of ECMAScript(same as JavaScript). One day a guy called James coined the term Ajax which could allow you to load data in the background without having to reload the entire page. This was a revolution in the history of internet and everyone went crazy over JavaScript ever since. This led to steep rise in comprehensive frameworks and libraries, improved JavaScript programming practices, and increased usage of JavaScript outside Web browsers. Since then there has been no looking back for JavaScript.

A few years later a cool guy my the name of Ryan took JavaScript to the next level altogether. Conventionally being used only for client side scripting JavaScript could now be used to write server side code too. Mind Blown! This was the birth of nodejs. It was around the same time when google launched The Chromium Project in which they created an engine(V8) which could compile JavaScript directly to native machine code before executing it, instead of more traditional techniques such as interpreting bytecode or compiling the whole program to machine code and executing it from a filesystem. This gave rise to a completely new community of developers who can now do full stack development by just knowing JavaScript alone.


Some people make fun of Full stack JavaScript developers as they think its not a sophisticated programming language like others, some even have biases. But after introduction of Object Oriented Programming in TypeScript there are a very few things JavaScript is not capable of doing better than almost all programming languages. The history of JavaScript was great and the future is bright. If this has sparked an interest in you for learning JavaScript, world is the limit.

Resources for future study-

  1. Start programming
  2. What is JavaScript, really?
  3. JavaScript: The good parts