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Web Developer Resource Index: JavaScript

First written in 1995 by Brendan Eich while at Netscape, JavaScript (which has little if anything to do with Java) is a scripting language that is most often associated with client-side (browser) dynamic effects and behavior that are designed to enhance Web pages.

Although pedantics have been saying for years that JavaScript is a poor name, and in fact the true, standardized version of the language is ECMAScript, JavaScript has stuck so that is how I’ve named this category.

Due to its popularity (and usefulness), Microsoft wasted no time adding their own compatible JScript language to the competing Internet Explorer browser. And, just as was the case with the markup language HTML, both vendors started adding to and changing the language. In the end (and to some extent to this day), the poor script author was forced to continually check which browser the script was running under (sometimes called “sniffing”) in order for their code to function properly.

Dynamic scripting (once known popularly as DHTML) is most often integrated with the structure of a Web document through the DOM and the presentation of the page through CSS. In the past few years, the popularity of JavaScript has exploded—mostly due to a new programming paradigm known as Ajax, which allows the developer to combine client-side dynamic effects with data that is stored on the server—the result being Web applications that are similar in feel and response to traditional desktop software. AJAX based applications typically alter the DOM of the page using data pulled from the server, usually from a database stored there. The result of this technique is dynamic content with all the benefits of server-side data (or even through Web Services), but without having to reload the entire page as is common with traditional client-server Web programming.

Dynamic, or DOM scripting isn’t the only technology contributing to the explosive growth of JavaScript. The Mozilla application framework, from which the popular Firefox browser is built, relies on JavaScript as a glue, or interface language (and is extensible through this technology).

The simple fact that I was a long time hold-out and pessimist (now a convert), should tell you something. In my opinion JavaScript, and similar technologies including Flash (which has another incarnation of JavaScript dubbed ActionScript), should remain unobtrusive, degrade gracefully and care should be taken so that the resulting applications are accessibile to all users.

Updated: Thursday, January 29th, 2009 @ 2:22 AM EST

Programming:Languages:JavaScript {1}(44)[72]

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Last updated: Thursday, January 29th, 2009 @ 2:22 AM EST [2009-01-29T07:22:02Z]   home

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