If “JavaScript” Has Nothing To Do With “Java”, Then Why Is It Called “JavaScript”?

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The question should be, “Why is it called JavaScript yet it has nothing to do with Java?” You should not confuse it with Java. JavaScript is one of the most renowned scripting languages found in HTML documents. It can provide high levels of interactivity with various websites that cannot be achieved via simple HTML. So, if JavaScript is not related to Java, why have ‘Java’ in its name? How was the name JavaScript developed? A little context here would help.

JavaScript was only executed in certain browsers, and this made the web pages interactive. Java was developed as a server-side language that could run in the browser disguising itself as applets (they are rare nowadays). Also, a user has to type JavaScript dynamically (i.e. putting all the figures in a variable, and the interpreter will figure them out during runtime). It uses prototypal inheritance, where a user creates new objects making the existing one a prototype. JavaScript has first-class functions that can recall the state of variables they accessed since their first declaration. On the other hand, Java is typed statically (a user cannot put a double in any variable they used as an int). It utilizes inheritance that is class-based, where a user creates objects using a class, and a class can only extend to another class. When Java 8 was introduced, it had closures referred to as lambdas.

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The only thing JavaScript and Java have in common is that they both utilize c-style syntax (periods and curly brackets). So, why was JavaScript called JavaScript? Most of the beginner programmer and newbies in programming cannot tell the difference between the two. However, they are distinct from each other in that Java is the best fit for back-end programming, while JavaScript is most suitable for use in front-end programming. A software developer who is experienced enough will seek to understand the two languages to avoid confusion, and also to be more marketable.

Brendan Eich of Netscape, Inc. is the brain behind JavaScript. He developed it using the name Mocha, a name that was later changed to LiveScript, and eventually changed to JavaScript. When the language first shipped the beta releases of Netscape Navigator 2.0 over two decades ago, LiveScript was the official name. When a joint conference was held by JavaScript and Sun Microsystems, LiveScript changed to JavaScript. It was renamed with the hope of making it a complete complimentary language to work with Java, the compiled programming language.

The name change came in tandem with Netscape adding support in its Netscape Navigator web using Java Technology. Once the final name was announced, a lot of confusion arose, giving the impression it was just a marketing gimmick by Netscape aimed at making people believe that there was no correlation between Java and JavaScript. Many people have claimed the name of the language is a by-product of a marketing partnership between Sun Microsystems and Netscape. It was thought that Sun would benefit from the dominant Netscape’s browser, which was then powered by Java.

Java is a computer programing language that can work in almost every field. It is class-based, specifically designed, and concurrent to include as few execution dependencies as possible. It is aimed at helping application developers to write once, and then run the code anywhere. The final compiled Java code can be executed on any platform that is compatible with Java without having to recompile.

Applications in Java are typically compiled to bytecode that can be executed using any Java virtual machine (JVM), without considering the computer architecture therein. Since last year (2016), Java was one of the most renowned computer programming languages in use, essentially for web applications that were client-server based. It had over nine million developers.

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JavaScript is an untyped, high-level, interpreted run-time, and dynamic language. The ECMAScript language specification has standardized the use of JavaScript. Together with CSS and HTML, JavaScript is part of the three main technologies used in World Wide Web content production. Most websites use it, and almost all contemporary web browsers can run with it without the need of plug-ins.

JavaScript is based on prototypes, and it has class functions that make it a multi-paradigm language that supports functional, imperative, and object-oriented programming styles. It can work well with regular expressions, dates, arrays, and text, but does not have any input-output such as graphics facilities, storage, and networking. Relying on them would expose the platform on which it is founded or embedded.

Why Is JavaScript Such A Misunderstood Language?

The prefix Java indicates that it has some relationship with Java. The name was selected intentionally to cause confusion, which in turn creates misunderstanding. JavaScript is not the elongated term for Java. Java’s interpretation is Java. However, JavaScript is different language that is similar to Java when it comes to syntax, just as Java is similar to C. JavaScript is not a subset of Java, as C is a superset of Java. JavaScript is superior to Java. The suffix Script indicates that it is not an actual programming language, but a scripting language.

A scripting language, also called extension or script language, is a programming language that allows the user to have dominion over one or multiple software applications. The languages used for scripting purposes are of a higher level than the language the host application uses (for ease of understanding the application, in this case, is the browser). Scripts are more often than not executed using the source code. They can also be semi-compiled to make a bytecode which is already interpreted. Most  users think scripting languages are inferior, or are different languages that are not as popular as the application. However, a scripting language is chosen for its versatility and high quality.

Major Similarities

Though the two are different from each other, they also exhibit some similarities when looking at web development. The similarities are:

Back-end development: Both Java and JavaScript are applied on the server side. Java has always been used to enhance back-end technologies such as WebSphere, JBoss, and Apache. JavaScript servers are launched on a platform of Node.js.

Front-end development: Both Java and JavaScript incorporate front-end development aspects. A developer can embed JavaScript directly into HTML, and implement it as a library or a framework. Java can only be used as an applet.

Object-Oriented Programming: The developer should code in both languages regarding objects and how they relate to each other. This enables both languages to access techniques such as polymorphism, encapsulation, and inheritance.

Major Differences Between JavaScript And Java

It is critical to remember that both JavaScript and Java were developed to work in various, different circumstances. Java was designed as a generic programming language to build autonomous applications, while JavaScript is a special scripting language that helps to interface with web technologies such as HTML. When it was initially released over two decades ago, it was mainly used to help in programming consumer electronics such as VCRs. JavaScript was aimed at being used as a client-side scripting language that was mainly implemented using Java. It could be executed in any browser without compilation.

As with all computer programming languages, the choice depends on what a user needs to build and the resources available. JavaScript is widely recognized as a web technology, while Java is a generic program used to build anything a user needs.

If you have more insight about Java and JavaScript, share your opinions in the comment section below.

Posted 3 November, 2017


Software Developer

Lucy is the Development & Programming Correspondent for Freelancer.com. She is currently based in Sydney.

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