Why JavaScript is (still) the language of the future

Written by Santiago Castro

Back in 1995, Brendan Eich, an employee at Netscape Communications, reportedly took just 10 days to develop a new programming language that could make websites more visually dynamic and attractive. First called Mocha, then LiveScript, the name was eventually changed to JavaScript to capitalize on the popularity of Java at the time (though sometimes confusing, the two languages are actually very different).

At the time, Eich couldn’t have known that JavaScript would expand to become the de facto language of the internet, used in more than 97% of all websites. With its ability to build upon and enhance HTML and CSS, JavaScript has long been known as one of the three core languages in the ‘layer cake’ of front end web technologies. Indeed, most of the basic dynamic features of web pages today - autocomplete, drop-down menus, interactive forms, slideshows - are based on JavaScript.

There’s absolutely no denying the broad popularity of JavaScript today, 25 years on from its humble beginnings. According to the annual survey of developers by Stack Overflow, it has been the most commonly used programming language for the last eight consecutive years. GitHub’s State of the Octoverse also shows JavaScript as the top language since 2014. But how did it become so widely used? What’s behind its importance for developers today?

How did JavaScript get here?

JavaScript was designed as a client-side scripting language. Yet as it matured it expanded into something much bigger and more sophisticated. This growth was aided by the release of ECMAScript by ECMA International, a global JavaScript standard designed to ensure compatibility across browsers. This standardization opened the way for tech giants and an ever-wider community to be actively involved in the evolution of JavaScript over the following two decades.

Key milestones during JavaScript’s transformation into a serious and ubiquitous programming language include the launch of Ajax and jQuery. Ajax (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) was conceived in 2005 and introduced a suite of technologies (including JavaScript) that allowed web pages to behave more like native desktop applications. This fundamentally changed the web as we knew it and dramatically raised the value of JavaScript within web applications. jQuery, a multi-purpose JavaScript library that simplifies and expands key functions, arrived the following year as one of the most popular of a range of new frameworks and libraries that eventually grew into a rich and thriving JavaScript ecosystem.

Another major turning point was the 2009 release of the Node.js runtime environment, which enabled developers to write server-side script with JavaScript. With this, the language that had come to dominate the frontend of the web could also be used on the servers running in the backend. This led to the launch of new frameworks and libraries (including Backbone, Angular and Express) that enabled full-stack development using a single language: JavaScript.

4 reasons why JavaScript is here to stay

Despite its obvious success - at least in terms of usage - JavaScript has always had its detractors. As a frontend scripting language, it wasn’t valued highly by many programmers or engineers, who highlighted its limitations while frowning upon its growing popularity. And yet despite some valid criticisms, we’re here 25 years later talking about how JavaScript is all around us. Though nothing is impossible, especially when it comes to tech, here’s why we think JavaScript will continue to serve as the engine that powers the web for the foreseeable future.

It’s omnipresent (and omni-platform): JavaScript can run anywhere. We’re not just talking about client-side and server-side scripts now, but also across different browsers, operating systems and devices. Pretty much any computer, phone and smart TV in your home will use JavaScript, and the number of devices will continue to expand as more appliances are connected via the Internet of Things (IoT). While it will inevitably face competition from newer languages, such a universal feature is not going to be replaced in the near term.

It has a huge community behind it: JavaScript’s enduring strength is powered by a huge community of developers. This rich and diverse ecosystem ensures anyone starting out with JavaScript has access to unrivaled open-source support, tutorials, libraries, frameworks, and ideas. There were even some concerns a while back about ‘framework fatigue’, with some developers anxious that a newer and better framework would appear just after they’ve finished building an application. Ultimately, the breadth and depth of resources will ensure JavaScript remains one of the friendlier languages to learn. And that means a whole new generation of JavaScript developers to continue the cycle.

It continues to evolve: With the support of this thriving community, JavaScript continues to evolve to offer improved performance and functionality. The release of ECMAScript 6 in 2015 added significant new syntax for writing complex applications as well as a range of other features. ECMA is now committed to updating its JavaScript standards every year to ensure it continues to become more robust, streamlined, and reliable. Tech giants such as Google and Microsoft have also dedicated significant resources to making JavaScript run faster and smoother on their respective browsers, and this is likely to ensure continued use over the coming years at least.

Modern frameworks will keep it relevant: JavaScript’s rich and diverse community will help future-proof it even at a time of radical change. It is already an important engine behind web development trends like Progressive Web Applications (PWAs) and Single Page Applications (SPAs). Meanwhile, newer frameworks and libraries like TensorFlow.js allow for the deployment of machine learning models with JavaScript. Making JavaScript suitable and effective for machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) will ensure it remains relevant in the next stage of the technological revolution.

Here at Jobsity, our network of Latin American developers are well trained in the latest uses and applications of JavaScript. If you want to find out more about how they can help your organization maximize its potential, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!


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Written by Santiago Castro

With over +16 years of experience in the technology and software industry and +12 of those years at Jobsity, Santi has performed a variety of roles including UX/UI web designer, senior front-end developer, technical project manager, and account manager. Wearing all of these hats has provided him with a wide range of expertise and the ability to manage teams, create solutions, and understand industry needs. At present, he runs the Operations Department at Jobsity, creating a high-level strategy for the company's success and leading a team of more than 400 professionals in their work on major projects.