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2 minute read / Nov 19, 2013 /

The Language of the Web


When I first started programming at a startup, I were proud even snobbish about the language we used: Java. I derided JavaScript. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

JavaScript has become the dominant language of the web. Every browser, PC and mobile, understands Javascript. It is a lingua franca among computers. Some hardware even speaks JavaScript.

Because of its universality, JavaScript’s growth has compounded. The chart above shows the number of code repositories by language on GitHub, as analyzed by RedMonk. JavaScript’s share has tripled in 5 years and the number of job requisitions seeking Javascript has grown in parallel.

As JavaScript’s popularity has ballooned, the technology has matured. Google has accelerated JavaScript performance by 7x in just four years by boosting JavaScript’s virtual machine, called V8, to the benefit of 750 million Chrome users. JavaScript, long known to be notoriously slow, is now faster than Ruby.

Additionally, new JavaScript frameworks have blossomed enabling the millions of web developers to build full and rich applications quickly. Node.js, Angular.js and Meteor enable easy access to databases, simpler code maintenance and Model-View-Controller architecture, analogous to Spring for Java and Rails for Ruby.

JavaScript may not have all the attributes to appeal to every developer. Some may not like its syntax or its speed or its lack of inheritance.

But for all of its faults, JavaScript has been cemented as the universal programming language of the web. With behemoths like Google, startups like Meteor and a litany of open source contributors constantly improving the language and the frameworks to build applications, JavaScript will be the platform for web innovation for a long time to come.

Thanks to Geoff Schmidt of Meteor, who shared a conversation with me that inspired this post.

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