How JavaScript became popular—part 4

JavaScript was a bad language but Babel helped work around the problem

JavaScript was an incredibly bad language. I don’t need to elaborate on this, since tons have been written; just search the web for “how bad is JavaScript”. Douglas Crockford’s classic book, “JavaScript: The Good Parts”, advocates using a subset of JavaScript (the good parts, that is), and has two appendixes: “The Awful Parts” and “The Bad Parts”.

Many programmers would rather not have anything to do with such an abomination, but JavaScript was the language of the browsers, and they couldn’t avoid it. One solution was to create new programming languages which compiled to JavaScript, such as CoffeeScript (2009) and Microsoft’s TypeScript (2012), which today is very widely used. In 2014 a teenager created Babel, a library that could compile the next version of JavaScript to the previous one (today it can also compile TypeScript and many other JavaScript extensions). This was important because the 2015 version of JavaScript had several new features that made it somewhat bearable, but it would be years before all browsers supported these features.

We are nearing the end of this story, and to complete it we need to talk about the JavaScript UI frameworks, a story for next time.