A Short History of JavaScript

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JavaScript, not to be confused with Java, was created in 10 days in May 1995, by Brendan Eich, then working at Netscape, now of Mozilla. JavaScript was not always known as JavaScript though: the original name was Mocha, a name chosen by Marc Andreessen, founder of Netscape. In September of 1995, however, the name was changed to LiveScript but, then in December of the same year, upon receiving a trademark license from Sun, the name JavaScript was adopted. This was somewhat of a marketing move at the time, with Java being very popular around then.

In 1996 - 1997 JavaScript was taken to ECMA to carve out a standard specification, which other browser vendors could then implement based on the work done at Netscape. The work done over this period of time eventually led to the official release of ECMA-262 Ed.1: ECMAScript is the name of the official standard, with JavaScript being the most well known of the implementations. ActionScript 3 is another well-known implementation of ECMAScript.

The standards process continued in cycles, with releases of ECMAScript 2 in 1998 and ECMAScript 3 in 1999, which is the baseline for modern day JavaScript. At this point however things stalled and went into limbo. The various parties involved split into two separate groups, much in the same fashion as what happened at the W3C around HTML and the formation of the WHATWG. (CHRIS - I THINK THIS BIT NEEDS EXPANDING ON. SAY WHO THE SEPARATE GROUPS WERE. WHY DID THEY DISAGREE? WHAT DID EACH SIDE WANT? I ALSO THINK IT IS WORTH DELETING THE REFERENCE TO THE HTML5/WHATWG SPLIT. IT ISN'T REALLY VERY HELPFUL, UNLESS YOU KNOW THE STORY THERE.)

The next major event was in 2005, when Jesse James Garrett coined the term Ajax, used to describe technologies used to create web applications where data can be loaded in the background, avoiding the need for full page reloads, and resulting in more dynamic applications. This resulted in a renaissance period of JavaScript usage, an evolution not so much being spearheaded by ECMA but much more so by open source libraries and the communities that formed around them. This period saw the release of JavaScript libraries such as Prototype, jQuery, Dojo and Mootools among others.

In 2008 the disparate parties on either side of the split came together in Oslo in an effort to take up the standards process again and drive the language forward using an agenda that is known as Harmony.

All of this then brings us to today, with JavaScript entering a completely new and exciting cycle of evolution, innovation and standardisation, with new developments such as the Nodejs platform, allowing us to use JavaScript on the server-side; HTML5 APIs to control user media, open up web sockets for always-on communication, get data on geographical location and device features such as accelerometer, and more. It is an exciting time to learn JavaScript.