The Growth of JavaScript

By David Stapleton - -
The Growth of JavaScript

JavaScript was first developed in 1995. Since then the language has had 21 years to grow and mature, and today's programmers are embracing it like never before. What started out as a slow and clumsy language has grown into a solid workhorse found in every web browser in use today. What caused this massive improvement? What lies in the future for JavaScript? These are important questions that both experienced and novice developers ask themselves.

JavaScript isn't going anywhere. There. I said it. The web relies on JavaScript. I sometimes hear people claim they "disabled JavaScript for security reasons." If you disable JavaScript, you are going to be in for a terrible web experience. Websites just will not work correctly. Period. The reason for JavaScript's hold on browsers is simple-- we needed one language in which to write our interactive logic so that all the different browsers could understand it. Having secured a protected monopoly, the language evolved over the years and made drastic improvements in speed and stability, largely thanks to Google's work with its V8 JavaScript engine.

I think many developers misunderstand JavaScript. A while back, I overheard a colleague say to someone, "we need coders, not scripters." JavaScript has moved on from its early days of a slow, interpreted language. It's time we update our views on the language. The fact of the matter is that JavaScript is now compiled into native code at runtime in browsers, resulting in much better speed and performance. You can also accomplish Object Oriented Programming (OOP) in JavaScript-- including Inheritance and Polymorphism. All of these attributes are made even better when you factor in TypeScript. TypeScript is a language created by Microsoft that allows us to have strongly-typed language features in JavaScript, including OOP experiences similar to languages such as C#, Java, and C++. Developers get to take advantage of the power of a strongly-typed language in TypeScript, and compile their code to plain JavaScript when it's time to deploy their site: browsers won't know the difference. The result is stronger, safer, and more efficient code running today's websites.

But JavaScript doesn't stop at our web browsers. Due to the increased stability of the language, a server runtime environment was created to run JavaScript code on the server. Enter Node.js. For the first time, developers could code all of their server-side logic in JavaScript. This led to an explosion in its popularity. Now developers on the front-end and back-end teams of websites could closely collaborate, help each other out, or even freely move between the teams. For smaller jobs, a small team of developers may handle both the front-end and back-end development. JavaScript also received a boost with the advent of Cordova (formerly PhoneGap). This tool allows websites (HTML/CSS/JavaScript) to be packaged up in a native app wrapper and put on the iOS, Google Play, and Windows Phone App Stores. So imagine this: a company maintains just a single workforce of JavaScript developers, holding training sessions on just one language, to churn out their websites, native mobile apps, and server code! This workforce simplification makes a lot of sense from a business perspective-- increased efficiency, decreased required development time, and increased synergy.

Many people argue that a single programming language should be adopted universally so that development workflows and collaboration could be simplified. With all of its advancements and its ubiquitous nature, JavaScript is definitely on a short list of potential candidates. Will that ever happen? I'm not sure. One thing I do know is that the future looks bright for JavaScript developers.