Netscape was one of the first web browsers available to the public and the people who built it wanted the browsing experience to be more app-like. In those days there were Windows apps and Apple Mac apps on our computers, just like we have today. But websites weren’t like apps, they were just about reading things really.
Netscape needed a programming language that would allow website builders to add functionality. For example, if you have a button on a website and somebody clicks it, then something has to happen. And in order for something to happen, you have to attach some code to that button.
Programmers at Sun Microsystems had created Java (another programming language that we teach at CodeClan) and at the time that was the new kid on the block, seen as a fancy new language. Originally designed for interactive television it was also suitable to be used on the back-end of internet apps. Sun were keen for Netscape to use Java as the language that would make websites more interactive and app-like.
Netscape got in touch with one of their ex-colleagues called Brendan Eich and he was drafted in to work with Netscape. When he came on board he was eventually tasked with working out which language to use to make Netscape more interactive.
He set aside Java because he thought it was too difficult for the average website builder to use. In those days website builders weren’t programmers; they weren’t engineers. But Java is a complex, quite advanced and difficult programming language.
Netscape needed something easier for website designers to use – something they could pick up really quickly and add little snippets of code to buttons and forms and things like that. They wanted something more script-like that could run in the web browser.
The language of web browsers
Originally it was quite simple and you could do reasonably straightforward things with it. Today it’s a fully-fledged programming language and can now be used on what we call the back-end as well, which isn’t the browser but the server-side.
For the front end, think about Netflix or AirBnB and the way you interact with them. It’s very smooth and if you hover over something, for example, it might pop up and show you a description. You click a button to “Add to Favourites” and boom! It’s added to your favourites.
That’s all happening in the browser. There are no extra page refreshes that have to happen in order for your application to save a movie to your favourites list.
Sound like a valuable skill to you?
Want to know more? Just us at our next info session.