Chris Castiglione Co-founder of Adjunct Prof at Columbia University Business School.

What is ECMAScript?

2 min read

What is ECMAScript?

Have you ever wondered how JavaScript became so popular? If so, you have come to the right place. 

To understand how JavaScript became so popular we must first talk about what JavaScript does and where it came from as well as what ECMA is and why it is relevant to this topic.

Where did JavaScript come from?

JavaScript was developed in 1995 by the Netscape Communications Corporation. Netscape is best popular for developing one of the first web browsers called the“Netscape Navigator”. Due to their strong presence in the world of the internet, Netscape had enough money to start figuring out more ways to expand the web. The result of their hard work was what we now call JavaScript.

The founder of Netscape, Marc Andreessen, wanted to build a more dynamic web. He wanted to be able to give developers more flexibility when working with animations and other small methods of interacting with the DOM (the DOM is more or less the rendered HTML that powers all websites). Marc and his team originally named the project Mocha in May of 1995, which then became LiveScript in September of 1995. Then, in early December of 1995, Netscape and Sun did a license agreement which is when it finally became JavaScript. 

Why is Java referenced in JavaScript’s name? 

The Java programming language was making its come up at that point in time and the two companies decided to market JavaScript as “Java’s little brother”. Although they have similar names, Java and JavaScript have very little to do with each other. 

What does JavaScript do?

JavaScript is responsible for the behavior of your website. What that means is that JavaScript animates the various HTML elements and CSS styles on the page. You can read more about JavaScript on our post that talks more about what JavaScript does.

What is ECMA?

ECMA is the group responsible for standardizing how people use JavaScript. ECMA stands for the European Computer Manufacturer’s Association. The key aim of ECMA is to develop standards and technical reports to standardize the use of information communication technology and consumer electronics; encourage the correct use of standards by influencing the environment in which they are applied, and publish these standards and reports in electronic and printed form.

What is ECMAScript?

In its simplest form, ECMAScript is a standard put forth ECMA, in which JavaScript is the best application of that standard. JavaScript not only implements everything that ECMAScript is meant to be, but builds upon it constantly. Every year (mostly), a new edition of ECMAScript emerges. This is why you may have seen ECMAScript shortened in length down to “ES”.

Here are all of the ECMAScript releases so far:

  • ES1: June 1997
  • ES2: June 1998
  • ES3: December 1999

The first three releases of ECMAScript happened in rapid succession year after year, unlike the fourth release.

  • ES4: Abandoned

The fourth release was abandoned due to political reasons. Companies like Microsoft were among those who disagreed with ES4 saying that due to the list of features growing substantially year by year that it was becoming too much for them to handle.

  • ES5: December 2009 (almost ten years after ES3!)
  • ES6 / ES2015: June 2015
  • ES2016 (ES7): June 2016
  • ES2017 (ES8): June 2017
  • ES2018(ES9): June 2018
  • ES2019(ES10): June 2019
  • ES2020(ES11): June 2020
  • (used to refer to whatever the next version is at the time of writing)

These releases are some of the more popular ones, specifically speaking about ES6. ES6 introduced many new things to the language of JavaScript. One of the more important things it introduced was Block Scope and the let keyword. This is important because, before ES2015 (ES6), there were only two types of scope: Global Scope and Function Scope. The reason that they decided to introduce the let keyword was that when you used var it could only be used globally. With ES6, the let keyword lets you redeclare a variable using Block Scope. Below is an example of using Block Scope to redeclare a variable.

var x = 10;

// Here x is 10

  let x = 2;

  // Here x is 2


// Here x is 10


There have been many releases of ECMAScript, but as of recently, a new release candidate has emerged. This candidate is being called ES.Next. This release has been named differently when compared to all of the other releases. This release was named “ES.Next” due to its dynamic nature and simply references the next version of ECMAScript coming out. ES.Next features are more or less being called proposals due to the evergrowing nature of JavaScript. These days JavaScript has never been more alive, with more and more features being proposed seemingly every day, now is the perfect time to master this popular language.

Final Thoughts 

If you are a beginner or someone who knows some of the basics and wants to learn more about the language of JavaScript, be sure to check out One Month’s Learn JavaScript Course.

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Chris Castiglione Co-founder of Adjunct Prof at Columbia University Business School.