Pluralsight authors: Happy 25th birthday, dear JavaScript

As many will know, JavaScript is a programming language that became the standard for browser-based programming, but it has also expanded beyond the client space to become a dominant language on the server-side, as well.

To celebrate JavaScipt’s quarter-century, Utah–based technology skills and engineering management platform company Pluralsight is offering free courses and re-launching javascript.com as of today.

To mark the anniversary, Computer Weekly Open Source Insider spoke to Pluralsight authors Cory House and Jonathan Mills to assess where the technology has progressed to over the years and what kinds of developments we can reasonably expect next.

First up it’s Cory House who lives in Kansas City, principal consultant at reactjsconsulting, where he helps companies transition to React. Cory has trained over 10,000 software developers at events and businesses worldwide and is a seven-time Microsoft MVP and regular conference speaker.

Computer Weekly: How important is JavaScript today compared to when it first launched? 

House: When JavaScript first launched it was unclear if it would take off. It was written in a few days and initially only offered in a single browser. Microsoft’s first browser shipped with its own flavour of JavaScript called JScript. Today, JavaScript makes the world go ’round. It runs on every computer, every phone, TV and even on some appliances. A huge portion of humanity relies on JavaScript every day without realizing it.

CW: What makes JavaScript such a timeless programming language? 

House: 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. Plus, since JavaScript has a C-like syntax, it feels familiar to people who have worked in other C-like languages. JavaScript also remains timeless by continually embracing good ideas from other languages.

CW: What would the web or e-commerce look like if we didn’t have JavaScript? 

House: Without JavaScript, the web would be similar to the late 90’s. 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.

CW: When did you first learn JavaScript? What impact has it had on you personally?

House: I learned JavaScript in the late 90s. It was awful. The debugging experience was horrendous. I often couldn’t tell clearly what had failed. It ran significantly differently on Internet Explorer than Netscape. It was so painful early on that I embraced Flash and expected it to overtake HTML and JavaScript in popularity. Clearly, I was wrong! As JavaScript matured, so did related libraries and browsers. Today, coding in JavaScript is a wonderful, rapid feedback experience.

CW: What does the future look like for JavaScript? What’s coming over the next years?

House: For around 10 years, JavaScript didn’t change at all. Thankfully, today new JavaScript releases occur every June. In the short term, I expect to continue to see mostly minor enhancements that implement good ideas from competing languages. Longer-term, I expect to see JavaScript decreasingly used as a compile target. People will increasingly use languages that compile to JavaScript. Today, TypeScript is popular example, but we may see other more popular, higher-level alternatives in the future. So while Web Assembly is likely to grow increasingly popular in the coming years, it will continue to interface with JavaScript to get things done.

JavaScript: a timeless tool

Now to Jonathan Mills, also from Kansas. Mills is a Pluralsight author, technology advisor and a member of the chief digital advisory team at World Wide Technology. As a dedicated developer community leader, Mills serves on the board of directors for the Kansas City Developers Conference, is a Microsoft MVP and a regular speaker and keynote presenter at conferences around the globe.

Computer Weekly: How important is JavaScript today compared to when it first launched?

Mills: When JavaScript first launched, it was just there to help a webpage be interactive. JS is no longer contained to the browser. Now JavaScript has grown into a massive ecosystem that has impact in every area of software development. As a JS developer, I can write applications on the backend, frontend, mobile device, and IoT devices.

CW: What makes JavaScript such a timeless programming language?

Mills: Honestly, I think it’s a combination of simplicity and flexibility. The learning curve of JavaScript is much lower than the typical enterprise languages of C# and Java so it is easy to pick up. 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.

CW: What would the web or e-commerce look like if we didn’t have JavaScript?

Mills:: While it’s almost impossible to say what it would look like without JavaScript, I will say it would be fundamentally different.

CW: When did you first learn JavaScript? What impact has it had on you personally?

Mills: For the vast majority of my career I have been a backend developer in the .Net and Java space. But as the ecosystems grew and the sheer weight of projects increased, I found myself looking for alternatives that would let me solve business problems faster. I made the transition to Node and AngularJS a while ago and have never looked back. The speed and reliability of the tooling is something I really enjoy.

CW: What does the future look like for JavaScript?

Mills: One of the primary complaints I have heard about JavaScript is that the massive open source ecosystem is so hard to navigate and new frameworks pop up every day. I find that is less the case now than it was a year ago and that trend will continue. I find most developers are using one of two frameworks on the frontend (React and Vue) and almost everyone I know is using Express on the backend and I see that trend continuing. Improvements will be made and features added, but for the most part, I think the ecosystem has solidified to a point that you can reliably pick up a tool and know that it will be around for a while.

 

Cory House (left) and Jonathan Mills (right).

 

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