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What Is JavaScript? An Easy Guide for Beginners

Did you know that as of 2022, 98% of websites use JavaScript for webpage user behavior on the client side? You may still be wondering what JavaScript is all about, and there’s much more to learn, so let’s talk about it.

What Is JavaScript?

JavaScript (often shortened to JS) is a programming language that is one of the major technologies of the internet, along with HTML and CSS. JS is a top programming language that has been used in one form or another for over thirty years. Because of its longevity, there are many resources available for new users, and a lot of existing expertise. JavaScript was developed in the early 90s to allow a browser to respond to user commands, and it was first known as LiveScript. The script was renamed to hitch up to the popularity of Java, another popular programming language in those days.

What Is JavaScript Used For?

JS has many uses: you can use JS to apply complex elements on a web page — like interactive maps and animated graphics. But programmers use it for many more functions:
  • Mobile application
  • Animation
  • Virtual reality
  • Interactive maps
  • Web Applications
  • Game Development

Why is JavaScript So Popular?

JS is an established, high-level language that requires no compilation. This means that JS can be executed as soon as it’s written, without compiling – so, faster prototyping and less headache. It’s also versatile and you can use JS for pretty much anything thanks to its extra features like libraries that are full of functions. JS also offers lower overheads because of being well-optimized. Anything created with JS tends to run smoothly on a wide variety of different machines.

How Does JavaScript Work?

JavaScript is used to “automate and animate.” People have grown to appreciate not having to type out every letter and word themselves with JS’s autocorrect text suggestions. Animated graphics have become an expected website feature. JavaScript is also responsible for interactive online forms and photo slideshows. Basically, JavaScript is used to make and control any element on a website that moves refreshes, or changes on without you having to manually reload the web page.

What Is a JavaScript Framework?

A JavaScript framework is a template. It’s a set of code libraries that give developers pre-written code to use for common programming elements and tasks – a template for building websites or apps. A framework makes it much easier and more expedient to build sites. Instead of coding every part of the site completely by yourself, you simply use common website features from the framework. Here’s an example: you’re making a standard JS photo carousel on a website, so you use code from a framework to give you that feature. Instead of making it from scratch, you can simply make adjustments to the framework. This allows you more time to code the less common elements of the site that don’t have a simple plug-in fix.

What Is a JavaScript Library?

A JavaScript library is a collection of pre-written JS code that makes developing JS-based apps easier. A JavaScript library contains a variety of objects, functions, and methods to do practical tasks on a webpage or JS-based app. You can even build a WordPress site with these libraries. Some examples of popular JS libraries are MooTools, YUI, jQuery, Prototype, and Dojo.

What Is Vanilla JavaScript?

Vanilla JavaScript refers to using plain JavaScript to build a site without any libraries. Created as a joke to prove a point in 2012, Vanilla JS shows that plain old “vanilla” JavaScript often works perfectly well without the use of additional JS frameworks or libraries. Developers used to bypass plain JavaScript for several tasks –  from making code behave consistently across browsers to offering more features than JavaScript could back then. In the past, a developer would often default to using jQuery. But now, relying on external libraries is no longer needed. That’s thanks to the development of the ECMAScript spec –  standardized specification of a scripting language developed by Netscape. Modern browsers keep up with it better. Some developers believe that it’s important to understand the main rules of JavaScript instead of relying only on shortcuts from JS frameworks and libraries. Others believe that shortcuts free up their time to work on the more unique elements of a webpage.

Pros And Cons of JavaScript

Like every other programming language, JS has advantages and disadvantages. For example, one advantage is speed. JavaScript is fast because it is an ‘interpreted’ language so that it cuts down the time needed by other programming languages like Java for compilation. JS is also a client-side script – this saves the time needed to connect to the server so it speeds up the execution of the program.

Advantages of JavaScript

  • Versatility – JS is capable of both front-end and back-end development
  • Simplicity – JavaScript is easy to learn
  • Popularity – All current browsers support JavaScript
JavaScript has some downsides, too. For instance, debugging difficulty. While some HTML editors support debugging, it’s not as streamlined as other editors (like C/C++). Also, it’s hard for developers to find the problem because the browser doesn’t show any error.

Disadvantages of JavaScript

  • Browser support – JavaScript is interpreted differently in different browsers; the code needs testing on different platforms before publishing. Plus, older browsers don’t support certain new functions and need testing too.
  • Security – JS code is viewable to the user and others may use it for malicious reasons.
  • Rendering – just one coding error can stop the rendering of the whole JavaScript code on the website. To the site user, it looks like JS was completely absent.

What is the Difference Between Java and JavaScript?

The major difference between Java and JavaScript is: Java is an OOP programming language and JavaScript is an OOP programming script. Java has to be compiled, while JS code gets written in text and only needs to be interpreted. Also, Java and JS are used for different kinds of projects. Java is used to create apps on devices or browsers. JavaScript is used mostly on HTML browsers and documents. Also, different plug-ins are required to use each one. Java is used to connect legacy enterprise systems to highly dynamic web interfaces, so it’s useful to many major corporations. Brands that use Java include Airbnb (backend development), Google (apps like Web Toolkit and Gmail), and Uber (built on Java). On the other hand, JavaScript is being used more and more lately. It was made to serve client-side application needs within a browser – but it has also moved on to the server and desktop through NodeJS. Some game engines like Kiwi and Bablyno also use JavaScript to customize their gameplay.

Master JavaScript at Coding Dojo

It’s difficult to program without using JavaScript these days because it’s so versatile and used for so many things. JavaScript builds fast and easily-maintainable production web apps, and because of that, it’s used by many startups and employers. At Coding Dojo, we teach MongoDB, Express, React, Node.js, and more technologies to train you to become a JS developer. Our JavaScript development course includes topics like OOP in JavaScript, Ajax requests, building an MVC framework, and creating custom JS libraries, among many others.

JavaScript FAQ

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about learning JavaScript.

What is the Best Way to Learn JavaScript?

There are several ways to learn, and from a number of different sources. You may want an immersive, full-time program that is normally taught on site (although currently this option is virtual). On the other hand, an online, part-time bootcamp may suit your schedule better.

Is JavaScript Hard to Learn?

JavaScript is known for being one of the simplest programming languages to understand, which makes it a great first language for students new to coding. Even the hardest, most complicated lines of JS code can be written one by one. JS can also be tested in the web browser at the same time.

How Long Does it Take to Learn JavaScript?

This depends on your schedule and how much time you can commit to learning. You can learn to code with JavaScript in a full-time course, which can be 14 weeks long if you learn for 70-90 hours per week. A part-time course can take anywhere from 16-32 weeks to complete.