JavaScript Turns 25

Posted on December 4, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud, Dev with 18 Comments

Netscape announced the initial release of the JavaScript web scripting language 25 years ago, on this day in 1995.

“Netscape Communications Corporation and Sun Microsystems, Inc. today announced JavaScript, an open, cross-platform object scripting language for the creation and customization of applications on enterprise networks and the Internet,” the original announcement reads. “The JavaScript language complements Java, Sun’s industry-leading object-oriented, cross-platform programming language. The initial version of JavaScript is available now as part of the beta version of Netscape Navigator 2.0, which is currently available for downloading from Netscape’s web site.”

JavaScript was hastily cobbled together by Netscape’s Brendan Eich—he literally spent 10 days on this project—when the firm’s leadership realized that it needed an approachable language for creating interactive content inside of web pages. The original pitch was that it had to be as easy as the Basic programming language used by Microsoft’s Visual Basic. But it also had to resemble Java because of Netscape’s partnership with Sun.

The resulting language is today the single most popular programming language in the world, despite its well-documented shortcomings and weirdnesses. Indeed, as part of its embrace of all things open, Microsoft has created an extension to JavaScript called TypeScript that addresses many of its issues and enables the creation of more sophisticated applications.

But it’s interesting to look back on that original announcement, which promised JavaScript in both web pages and in server-side scripts, and positioned the language as a glue, of sorts between Java components and HTML web pages.

JavaScript was always free, and Netscape revealed in its announcement post that it would propose JavaScript to the W3 Consortium (W3C) and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) as an open Internet scripting language standard. Today, the standardized version of JavaScript is called ECMAScript, after ECMA International (formerly called the European Computer Manufacturers Association).

I found out about this anniversary from Microsoft’s Raymond Chen, who notes that the phrase “JavaScript was designed” was once considered to be humorous. Probably still is, I guess.

Tagged with