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Sunday, January 21, 2007

A Perfunctory Semantic Note about ECMAScript Javascript

There are probably quite a few of you out there that have started reading my series on Making Javascript Useful that are wondering why I insist on referring to the ECMAScript language as Javascript. There are a few reasons.

First, almost nobody knows what ECMAScript is, aside from myself and you, the one reader whose eyes have not yet glazed over. If I were to call it, somewhat more properly, ECMAScript, then essentially nobody would see it, and even if they did, they probably wouldn't know or care what ECMAScript is because they only know how to program in Javascript. Everyone who knows what ECMAScript is, knows that Javascript is ECMAScript; however, the opposite is certainly not true.

The second, and more important, reason is mere pedantry. ECMAScript is a language definition; Javascript is the language that is available "in the wild" on essentially every computer in the world. Although it might be true to say that SpiderMonkey (name your own favorite backend here, I don't care) is an implementation of the ECMAScript Language, SpiderMonkey is not the program that runs your scripts, Firefox (or other appropriate browser) is the program that runs your scripts. This program comes with baggage like DOM, AJAX, Netscape2 compatibility, W3C Event Model, etc, whereas the ECMAScript language doesn't really care one way or the other what interfaces your program provides to the interpreter. Since we only really care (at the moment at least) about making our ECMAScripts run "in the wild", we are really worried about Javascript. ECMAScript will end up coming along for the ride, most certainly, but Javascript is the real target of our adventure.

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