History of JavaScript: Part 1

2010-05-24 00:00:00 +0100 by Alex R. Young

History of JavaScript is a new article series starting today and continuing every Monday on DailyJS. I'll be discussing the history of
JavaScript, from the early days in the 90s, through to the development
and abandonment of JavaScript 2, up until the present. Each article will
contain references at the bottom so you can get more details on the
major events and concepts.

Brendan Eich

JavaScript was born out of a need to make web pages dynamic. The name
gives us a clue to its origins -- Java obviously plays some part in
its history. JavaScript is actually a trademark of Sun Microsystems --
Netscape used the name under license. However, Sun didn't create

Brendan Eich developed JavaScript for Netscape in the 90s, and it was
included with an early version of Netscape 2 in 1995. Brendan Eich
started his career at Silicon Graphics, working on operating systems and
networking code. Eventually he ended up at Netscape.

During development JavaScript was called Mocha and then LiveScript.
Although people like to point out it wasn't developed by Sun and isn't
exactly like Java, Brendan was keen to push it as Java's little brother:

And we were pushing it as a little brother to Java, as a complementary language like Visual Basic was to C++ in Microsoft's language families at the time.

Ecma International

Work on the specification for ECMA-262 began in November 1996, after
Netscape submitted JavaScript to Ecma International. The first edition
of the standard was adopted by Ecma in June 1997.

JavaScript 1.1 was already available in Netscape 3.0 (as of August
1996), then 1.2 was released with Netscape 4.0 in June 1997.


Meanwhile Microsoft were building up Internet Explorer to compete with
Netscape. JScript was released with Internet Explorer 3.0 in August 1996
and was based on Netscape's JavaScript. Microsoft named it JScript to
avoid trademark disputes.

JavaScript Implementations

JScript is a dialect of JavaScript. What Mozilla calls JavaScript is
still considered by some as the de-facto standard for JavaScript, with
the Ecma standards merely defining what a JavaScript implementation
should do. The reason for this is Brendan Eich is the CTO of Mozilla
Corporation. And in fact, politics are more central to JavaScript than
you might have otherwise expected, despite it having an internationally
recognised standard.

Part 2

In part 2 I'll discuss the browser wars and development of JavaScript's
features and the DOM.