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What is Javascript?

What is Javascript?

Learn all about the most commonly used computer programming language in the world and how it compares to other languages.

Blog
Development
What is Javascript?

What is Javascript?

Learn all about the most commonly used computer programming language in the world and how it compares to other languages.

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Written by
Tomas Laurinavicius

JavaScript is the most commonly used computer programming language in the world.

It’s incredibly versatile and powers the entire web. This scripting language is used by 97.9% of all websites. That’s why learning JavaScript is an absolute must for anyone who wants to get into web development.

Today, we’ll take a closer look at it, discuss its pros and cons, and see how it compares to other popular programming languages such as Java and Python.

What is JavaScript?

JavaScript, also known as JS, is a scripting language created in 1995 by Brendan Eich at the request of Netscape. Microsoft later adopted it, which helped popularize it through its Internet Explorer web browser.

Today, all web browsers — including Google Chrome, Safari, and Firefox — support JavaScript. You can think of it as the animating force of the web — it makes interactivity possible. 

JavaScript allows you to add quizzes, forms, popups, and more to your website by manipulating the Document Object Model (DOM). Today, we take all that for granted, but you couldn’t do it before JS.

It’s also the technology that powers Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), which make it possible for various web applications to communicate with each other. JavaScript is used for game development and creating web and mobile applications, as well. 

While JavaScript is considered a client-side language, it can also be used as a server-side language for back-end development through the popular Node.js framework.

As we have already mentioned, knowing this programming language is an absolute must for anyone who wants to become a web developer. However, if you are a web designer, understanding JavaScript can be beneficial because it can give you a competitive advantage.  

And you don’t need to become a programming expert to gain that advantage — having a solid grasp of the JS fundamentals is enough. It will allow you to better understand a web developer’s perspective and help you collaborate with them more effectively, which should result in a better end product. 

As Aaron Walter, VP of Design Education at InVision, once said: “An architect would understand the properties of concrete, so why wouldn’t a designer understand the properties of code?”

Popular JavaScript frameworks

JavaScript frameworks are JavaScript code libraries that include pre-written code for various repetitive programming tasks. These frameworks allow you to save time because instead of writing everything from scratch using Vanilla (plain) JavaScript, you can use various code shortcuts provided by the frameworks.

Here are the most popular JavaScript frameworks:

  1. Angular 
  2. React.js 
  3. Vue.js 
  4. Express
  5. jQuery 
  6. Ember.js
  7. Node.js
  8. Meteor
  9. Svelte
  10. Backbone.js
  11. Aurelia
  12. Polymer

If you want to work as a web developer, you need to become familiar with the most popular frameworks. However, programming beginners often obsess over frameworks while their JS is still shaky, which is a mistake. You need to master JavaScript first.

Fortunately, as senior software engineer Kavitha Balachandran explains, Once you’re familiar with the underlying JavaScript programming language, picking up any JS framework should be a walk in the park.”

As to which framework you should start with, no one can answer that question but you because it all depends on what you want to achieve. Pick the framework that is best suited for what you intend to do, such as landing a job, building a product, or creating a personal project. 

JavaScript and other programming languages

JavaScript can be a great first programming language to learn. But how does it compare to some of the other popular languages?

JavaScript vs. HTML and CSS

HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are the three core technologies of the web. 

  • HTML is a markup language used to create the content of web pages (text, images, buttons, etc.)
  • CSS is a style sheet language used for styling the content of web pages (text layout, color, fonts, etc.)
  • JavaScript is a programming language used to implement various dynamic and interactive elements onto web pages (animations, pop-ups, forms, etc.) and for creating web apps

In his Complete JavaScript Course 2022: From Zero To Expert, Jonas Schmedtmann compares:

  • HTML to nouns: <p> </p> means “a paragraph.
  • CSS to adjectives: p {color: red) means “the paragraph text is red.
  • JavaScript to verbs: p.hide(); means “hide the paragraph.”

This analogy can be helpful when it comes to understanding how these three languages work together to create the web as we know it.

JavaScript vs. Java

JavaScript and Java are different programming languages.

According to Java’s official website, these are the key differences between them:

  • Java is an object-oriented programming (OOP) language while JavaScript is a scripting language
  • Java creates applications that run in a virtual machine or browser, while JavaScript code only runs on a browser
  • Java code must be compiled, while JavaScript code is all in text
  • They require different plug-ins

Java is used for web servers and to create desktop, web, and mobile applications, software for the Internet of Things (IoT) devices, computer games, and more. 

If you’re wondering why JavaScript has the word “Java” in its name despite not being related to Java, it goes back to the mid-90s tech scene. JavaScript was first introduced to the world as LiveScript in September 1995, but the name was changed to JavaScript for the official release in December 1995. 

The name caused confusion, and still does to this day. No one knows for sure why Netscape made the change. But seeing as Java was the hot new language at the time, it could have been — as JS creator Brendan Eich put it — a “kind of marketing scam” designed by Netscape to benefit from Java’s popularity.

JavaScript vs. Python

Python is the third most commonly used programming language. It’s the go-to language for data science and machine learning and a popular choice for artificial intelligence.

When it comes to web development, you can use Python for server-side or backend development. JavaScript, on the other hand, is used for backend and frontend development.

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Why JavaScript is important

Now, let’s look at the advantages of using JavaScript. What makes this language so popular?

Versatile front-end language

JavaScript is highly versatile, meaning that no matter what web application you want to build, you can probably do it with JavaScript. In fact, some of the most popular web apps out there were made with it, including Gmail, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

Responsive web design

Now that people are browsing the internet on a variety of devices like desktops, laptops, smartphones, tablets, and more, responsive design is more critical than ever. 

Combining HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript allows you to create beautiful websites that adapt to various devices and browsers. You can also use mobile app-friendly JavaScript for mobile app development — meaning you don’t have to learn Java to make Android apps or Swift to make iPhone apps. You can do it all with JS. 

Using one language across several platforms speeds up the process of building the apps because you can reuse various code snippets instead of writing everything from scratch. 

Suitable for game development

JavaScript is also an excellent choice for creating web and mobile games. There are multiple JavaScript engines and JavaScript libraries available that you can use specifically for that purpose. 

Disadvantages of JavaScript

It’s crucial to understand that no programming language is perfect. They all have their inherent limitations and JavaScript is no exception.

So what are the downsides of using it?

Logical issues: JavaScript is considered to be a verbose programming language., meaning you need to write a lot of repetitive code to avoid errors and make things happen. Consequently, the codebase can quickly get bloated and start slowing down your website or application.

UX issues: JavaScript is rendered differently by different web browsers because some JS features are browser-dependent. This can lead to user interface problems and interfere with user experience.

Security issues: JavaScript is primarily used as a client-side language. Since it’s executed on the client-side, people can look at the code, identify vulnerabilities, and take advantage of them.

Is JavaScript worth learning?

JavaScript is considered an easy-to-learn programming language with a relatively simple syntax that is an excellent choice for beginner programmers. 

It’s not possible to say how much time it will take to master it because that depends on various factors, including your natural aptitude, previous programming experience, and learning schedule.

However, as a rough estimate, you should be prepared to put at least 1,000 hours of work into learning HTML, CSS, and JavaScript if you want to become proficient at web development.

While this number might seem overwhelming, you can reach it and exceed it by:

  • Practicing for 3 hours every day for a year.
  • Practicing for 2 hours every day for a year and a half.
  • Practicing for 1 hour every day for three years.

And remember — becoming an expert in JavaScript (or any other programming language for that matter) doesn’t mean you always have to code everything from scratch. Combining your knowledge of coding with a visual designer like Webflow can help you create custom low-code websites and web apps with less time and effort spent on the code itself.

Last Updated
July 1, 2022
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