Definition of the Month: JavaScript
Mathew R. Ignash mignash@rust.net

It seems like the computer industry just isn't happy unless they come up with some catchy name for some new feature every few days. Suddenly a new word is used and overused so much, some people seem to forget that most people never heard of the word, or know what it means. This happened to me the other day when Amitrix Development announced it's AWeb v3.1 web browser. It had support for "JavaScript". My first responce was "Good for them, we definitely need one of those." My second responce was "Um, what is JavaScript exactly?" Well, it's not like you can open the Meriam Websters dictionary and look it up. But I did some searching and found an online service called the Free Online Dictionary of Computing. It helped me know just what it was Amitrix was trying to sell me. So for all you people who have been reading this paragraph waiting to here what JavaScript is exactly, here is their definition.

JavaScript

<language> (Formerly LiveScript) Netscape's simple, cross-platform, World-Wide Web scripting language, only very vaguely related to Java. JavaScript is intimately tied to the World-Wide Web, and currently runs in only three environments - as a server-side scripting language, as an embedded language in server-parsed HTML, and as an embedded language run in browsers.

JavaScript may end up being more popular and entrenched than Java, due to the current (May 1997) prevalence of its primary platform (see below), and its ease of learning. It has a simplified C-like syntax. Its functionality is currently limited, being aimed primarily at enhanced forms, simple web database front-ends and navigation enhancements.

JavaScript originated from Netscape, and for a time, only Netscape products supported it. Microsoft now supports it, but as a "work-a-like" called JScript. The resulting inconsistencies make it difficult to write JavaScript that behaves the same in both Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer. This could be attributed to the slow progress of JavaScript through the standards bodies.

JavaScript runs "100x" slower than C, as it is purely interpreted (Java runs "10x" slower than C code). Netscape and allies say JavaScript is an "open standard" in an effort to keep Microsoft from monopolising web software as they have desktop software. Netscape and Sun have co-operated to enable Java and JavaScript to exchange messages and data.

JavaScript should not be confused with Java, and is a Netscape, not Sun trademark.

The Free Online Dictionary of Computing can be found at http://wfn-show.princeton.edu/foldoc/ and is one of the most extensive online dictionaries of computing I've ever seen.


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