A Trip Back in Time: the History of JavaScript

JavaScript is a programming language that has become an essential part of web development. In many ways, the history of JavaScript mirrors the history of the modern Internet. This language is everywhere, and for the tenth year in a row, it has been ranked the most commonly used programming language according to surveys by StackOverflow. 

In this article, we will take a deep dive into the history of JavaScript, from its humble beginnings to its current state. 

A Trip Back in Time: the History of JavaScript

What is JavaScript?

JavaScript is a high-level, multi-paradigm programming language primarily used for website development alongside HTML and CSS. While HTML and CSS provide the structure and style of a website, JavaScript enables the addition of interactive features and behaviors. This allows visitors to engage with the website in more exciting ways. Also note that the language is not limited to a specific type of operating system and supports event-driven, functional, and imperative programming styles such as object-oriented and prototype-based. 

JavaScript has gained immense popularity since its release in 1995. According to Statista, 65% of developers are using JavaScript worldwide today, and it surpassed other languages such as Java and Python. What makes JavaScript so developer-friendly is the fact that it’s relatively easy to learn and allows developers to rapidly build apps with massive audiences.

You can use JavaScript to create:

  • Web applications, servers and backend web infrastructure;
  • Browser-based games;
  • Animation and other special effects;
  • Security features (such as passwords);
  • Automatically refreshing news feeds;
  • Mobile applications.

Like all languages, JavaScript is constantly changing. Here’s a brief overview of JavaScript’s version history and how this programming language has evolved.

History and evolution of JavaScript

The history of JavaScript started with Netscape Communications Corporation – an American independent computer services company. In 1994, the company dominated the browser market with its Netscape Navigator web browser. But in late 1995, Microsoft entered the arena with Internet Explorer. They tried to take control of the emerging technology from Netscape, so Microsoft became a threat to the company. Easy to guess, Netscape lost to it and other competitors in the first browser war, but the company succeeded in another field.

To remain competitive, Netscape sought to expand its audience by incorporating a scripting language that would enable interactions with the Document Object Model (DOM). Marc Andreessen, the founder of Netscape Communications, had the vision that the web needed a way to become more dynamic. At the time, the web was very limited and slow as people used dial-up connections through telephone lines and modems. When filling out forms on websites, validation for input fields had to be done through a full round trip to the server. This was a slow process and could result in data loss if the form wasn’t filled out correctly. To address this issue, Netscape Communications came up with a solution. They decided to enable validation of input fields on the client side to avoid the need for a full round trip to the server. This process required a small scripting language that would be available for both software engineers and people without extensive programming experience.

Netscape Communications then allied with Sun Microsystems. To outdo Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, their collaborative plan involved incorporating Sun’s Java programming language into the Netscape Navigator 2 browser. Thus, in April 1995, Netscape Communications hired Brendan Eich to develop and introduce a new scripting language for the browser. Eich had only 10 days to create a prototype yet he nailed the challenge. 
The new language was initially called Mocha and it was designed to resemble Java, which was important to both Netscape and Sun. To achieve this, Eich utilized syntax influenced by C and implemented naming conventions similar to Java. He incorporated the prototype-based object model from the Self language, allowing objects to inherit directly from other objects. He also added first-class functions similar to those found in Lisp. This approach treated functions as variables, resulting in a language that combined the syntax of Java, the object orientation of Self, and the functional style of Scheme. 

Near the release, the name was changed from Mocha to LiveScript, and later to JavaScript. It was mainly a marketing tactic to portray the new language as a supporting scripting language to Java. Thus, simple, dynamic, and accessible to non-developers, a new scripting language for the web was released in September 1995. 

Initially, JavaScript was not well-received. Skilled Java developers believed that the language was too basic and not up to their standards, while designers and authors found it too challenging to work with. However, JavaScript changed the way the public saw the internet and gave web designers the possibility to make creative and interactive web page designs. And for a while, JavaScript helped Netscape Navigator maintain its position as a market leader. 

JScript and ECMAScript

At the time of JavaScript’s introduction by Netscape, there was intense competition among browser vendors in the market. Other vendors were creating their own versions of JavaScript using different names and syntax. In 1996, soon after the launch of Netscape Navigator 3, Microsoft released a new version of its web browser called Internet Explorer 3, which had an implementation of its version of JavaScript called JScript. Because JavaScript was open and freely licensed, Microsoft was able to reverse-engineer its implementation. Thus, there were two versions of JavaScript with no standardization in place. This became a bother for developers, as the code that worked perfectly in one browser was useless in another. 

To avoid further conflicts, in 1997, Netscape turned to the European Computer Manufacturers Association (ECMA) and asked them to standardize JavaScript. By opening up JavaScript to a wider audience, the decision to standardize the language through the ECMA committee allowed other potential implementers to have a say in its evolution while maintaining accountability. The ECMA committee created a standard known as ECMA-262, which defined a new scripting language called ECMAScript. This general-purpose scripting language was adopted by all browsers as the basis for their own implementations of JavaScript, ensuring adherence to a common standard.

ECMAScript 2 and ECMAScript 3 

In 1998 and 1999, ECMAScript 2 and ECMAScript 3 versions were released. They included editorial changes and a few new functions. The second version of the standard was released to fix inconsistencies between ECMA and the ISO standard for JavaScript. The version of ECMAScript 3 became widespread. It was backed by all major browsers of that era and remained supported for many years. As a result, ECMAScript 3 became the foundation for numerous libraries, even after the release of later versions of the standard. Despite being more popular than ever, JavaScript remained primarily a client-side language.

ECMAScript 4 and ECMAScript 5

Unfortunately, the following years were not good for JavaScript development. Work on ECMAScript 4 had begun as soon as version 3 came out and many interesting features were discussed internally at Netscape. However, the committee could not agree on its feature set, as the majority thought that many suggestions were big in scope and too complex, which was not the appropriate course for JavaScript. Thus, the release date was being pushed further and further away.

But in July 2008, the committee came to an agreement and decided to combine all relevant work and continue the development of the language. Thus, ECMAScript 5 was released in December 2009. This version brings several enhancements to the standard library and even has updated language semantics. ECMAScript 5 became one of the most supported versions of JavaScript. It was fully supported by Firefox in 2011, followed by Chrome, Safari, and Internet Explorer in 2012. None of these changes required major syntax updates, and it was overall a modest improvement that helped JavaScript become more usable. It became fully supported by all browsers in 2014. 

ECMAScript 2015 and further versions

By 2015, JavaScript was gradually evolving into the language we are familiar with today. It took seven years to move from the finalized version of ECMAScript 5 to the launch of ECMAScript 6, initially named Harmony, and later renamed as ECMA2015. This version was drastically different from the previous one, and it remains the most significant update to JavaScript to date. This new major version required transpilers, such as Babel or Typescript, to be compatible with older browsers. More intricate frameworks like React and Vue were also introduced, leading to the development of bundlers like Browserify and webpack to help manage dependencies.

After the 2015 big release, the committee decided to add new, smaller updates to the JavaScript language every year. Thus, in June 2022, the ECMA approved the specifications for ECMAScript 2022, which is the 13th edition of the JavaScript standard.


In 2005, Jesse James Garrett released a paper introducing Ajax (Asynchronous JavaScript And XML) – a suite of technologies that included JavaScript. Ajax allows you to read data from a web server after the page has loaded, update a web page without reloading the page, and send data to a web server. It sends only the crucial information to the server, rather than the entire webpage, thereby reducing the load on the server. So the interactive web pages can be processed and loaded more quickly. This will help in faster processing and loading of the interactive web pages. 

The introduction of Ajax greatly improved user experience by making web pages feel more like native desktop applications. It has allowed developers to create websites where the browser would never refresh or reload a page when a link is clicked. As a result, JavaScript gained more recognition as a professional programming language.

JavaScript vs. Java

Despite the similarity in their names, JavaScript and Java are two different programming languages.

Java is an object-oriented, class-based programming language that was developed by Sun Microsystems in the mid-1990s. It is compiled into bytecode that can run on any platform that has a Java Virtual Machine (JVM) installed. Java is often used for building large-scale enterprise applications, Android mobile apps, and server-side web applications.

On the other hand, JavaScript is a high-level, interpreted programming language. It is primarily used for client-side web development and can be inserted into HTML pages. JavaScript code is written in text and can be organized, saved, edited, and operated as text files. It supports event-driven, functional, and object-oriented programming paradigms. The language is also widely used for creating interactive web pages, web applications, and mobile applications.

JavaScript was created to be interpreted at runtime, making it more dynamic. Programs made from Java can run on either a virtual machine or a browser. JavaScript programs are mostly run in a browser. Another significant difference is that both languages require different libraries and plug-ins to function. 

What makes JavaScript unique

JavaScript has several unique features that set it apart from other programming languages:

  • It can be fully integrated with HTML and CSS;
  • It is supported by all major browsers;
  • There are numerous frameworks written in Javascript (like React, Angular, Vue, React Native, etc.);
  • JavaScript allows creating actions like button clicks, form submissions, and animations;

JavaScript today

Today, JavaScript is one of the most widely used programming languages in the world, and it continues to evolve with new features and capabilities. According to Statista, JavaScript is used as a client-side programming language by 98.3% of all websites. Websites of the world’s largest web applications like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube are built with the help of JavaScript. It is used for both client-side and server-side programming and has a wide range of frameworks and libraries that make it easier for developers to build complex web applications. And there are even more interesting updates that are coming in the future.


What is JavaScript?

 JavaScript is a scripting language primarily used for creating interactive web pages and web applications. JavaScript is a client-side language, meaning it is executed on the user’s computer rather than the web server. It adds interactivity to web pages, such as validating form data, creating interactive maps and charts, and adding dynamic effects and animations. JavaScript is also used on the server side through platforms like Node.js, allowing for the development of full-stack applications.

What is the history of JavaScript?

JavaScript was created by Brendan Eich in just 10 days in May 1995 while he was working at Netscape Communications Corporation. Initially, it was called Mocha, then changed to LiveScript before finally being named JavaScript. The language was designed to add interactivity to web pages and enable developers to create dynamic content. It was first implemented in the Netscape Navigator 2.0 browser. 

Why does JavaScript have a C syntax history?

JavaScript has a C syntax history because it was designed to be a lightweight, interpreted language that could be embedded in web browsers. At the time of its creation, C was a widely used language, and its syntax was familiar to many developers. By using a syntax similar to C, JavaScript made it easier for developers to learn and use the language.

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