Image: iStockphoto/comzeal

Friday, Dec. 4 marks the 25th anniversary of Netscape and Sun Microsystems unveiling JavaScript, one of the most popular programming languages ever created. JavaScript can now be found on every computer, phone and internet-enabled TV and some appliances, too.

In June, JavaScript creator Brendan Eich, who went on to found Firefox owner Mozilla Corporation, wrote a 180-page paper for the Association of Computing Machinery Journal explaining the history of the language and its very complicated rise to prominence.

SEE: Meet the hackers who earn millions for saving the web, one bug at a time (cover story PDF) (TechRepublic)

“In 2020, JavaScript is arguably the world’s most broadly deployed programming language. According to a Stack Overflow survey it is used by 71.5% of professional developers making it the world’s most widely used programming language,” Eich wrote in “JavaScript: The First 20 Years.”

“JavaScript was a language created with low expectations. It was originally intended to be a sidekick to Java within browsers, suitable for beginner Web page developers and part-time programmers. Yet, in short order, it surpassed Java as the primary language for interactive Web pages. Even though JavaScript’s first 20 years is littered with failed attempts to enhance, improve, redesign, or replace it, by the end of that period JavaScript was the world’s most widely used programming language and not only for Web pages.”

In honor of the anniversary, tech training company Pluralsight is offering free access to 25 of its most popular JavaScript courses throughout December, with five free courses a week at

SEE: Top 5 programming languages for systems admins to learn (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

According to Pluralsight’s Technology Index, JavaScript remains the most popular technology for software engineers. The site also includes several new resources designed to help JavaScript developers of all abilities.

Nate Taylor, one of Pluralsight’s most popular JavaScript course authors, explained that JavaScript is used across the entire spectrum of software development, from web applications, mobile applications, servers to stored functions in databases.

Taylor noted the internet would not be what it is without the introduction of JavaScript.

“Prior to JavaScript’s introduction, the web was not much more than static hypertext delivered in a browser. Without JavaScript, we likely don’t have the web that we do today, but we didn’t necessarily understand that when it was first released,” he said.

“Because of the community, we now have NodeJS so that we can run JavaScript on the server. We have libraries like RamdaJS which brings in concepts from functional programming languages and makes them accessible to JavaScript developers. We even have TypeScript as a super-set of JavaScript. And through all of that, the language has grown and adapted. In some ways, the fluidity of the language that causes so many of us problems when we first learn it, is part of what keeps it going even today.”

Without JavaScript, Taylor said the internet would be far more frustrating and would lack the sort of bells and whistles that people have come to expect from all websites.

A common situation is to see something in your cart and decide to change the quantity, or possibly even save it for later in a wish list, which Taylor explained are relatively straight forward JavaScript calls. Without that, you would again be forced to resubmit the entire form until you were ready to proceed.

Taylor’s journey with JavaScript began in 2009, and even though he didn’t love it at first, he saw its usefulness.

“Experimenting with that bit of JavaScript helped open several doors for me. It allowed me to interview for a web developer position that ended up changing the course of my career. In addition to helping me land jobs for my 9-to-5 work, JavaScript also indirectly led me to more teaching as I advanced in my career,” he said.

“I found that JavaScript offered different ways of solving problems than I was used to. And in explaining those ideas to other developers I realized that I enjoyed helping others learn and grow. It was exciting to see developers grasp new ideas.”

Cory House, another popular JavaScript course author, said JavaScript was written in a few days and initially only offered in a single browser, making its success unclear after its debut.

“A huge portion of humanity relies on JavaScript every day without realizing it. JavaScript is timeless because it’s approachable, multiparadigm, and ubiquitous. There are multiple ways to accomplish a given task. You can code in an object-oriented or functional style. And since JavaScript has a C-like syntax it feels familiar to people who have worked in other C-like languages,” House said.

“JavaScript remains ‘timeless’ by continually embracing good ideas from other languages. Without JavaScript, the web would be similar to the late 90s. Simpler and lighter-weight, but also less feature-rich. We’d have to post back to the server on every request, leading to a clunkier user experience.”

House added that when he first learned JavaScript in the late 90s, it was difficult to use and he thought Flash would end up winning out. But as JavaScript matured, so did related libraries and browsers, he explained, calling it now a “wonderful, rapid feedback experience.”

Pluralsight course author Jonathan Mills said JavaScript was no longer contained by browsers and has grown into a massive ecosystem that impacts every area of software development.

“As a JS developer, I can write applications on the backend, frontend, mobile device, and IoT devices. The learning curve of JavaScript is much lower than the typical enterprise languages of C# and Java so it is easy to pick up,” Mills stated.

“But its flexibility in running everywhere and its very lightweight nature make it easy to get things done everywhere. The combination of those two things, make JavaScript an easy tool to reach for given any job.”

Both House and Taylor expect big things for JavaScript in the future. House said new JavaScript releases occur every June and he expected to see mostly minor enhancements that implement good ideas from competing languages.

In the long term, he theorized that there would be a decrease in the use of JavaScript as a compile target and increase in use of languages that compile to JavaScript like TypeScript.

Taylor explained that the industry has finally moved past the phase of JavaScript where everyone made jokes about how fast a new library came out, and are now at the point where it can be used to provide real value to users and companies.

“As a result, I think we’ll continue to see JavaScript maturing. It will continue to get new features that help ease development in JavaScript. We’ll continue to see more and more uses in areas that we don’t immediately expect,” Taylor said.

“It wasn’t that long ago that it was not possible to write a mobile app in either Java or Swift, but now with frameworks like ReactNative, it’s possible to use the same JavaScript skills that developers already have to create mobile apps.”

Editor’s note: This article and headline have been updated to reflect the 25th anniversary of JavaScript.