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JavaScript Isn't Java

Despite the name, JavaScript and Java have almost nothing to do with one another. Java is a full-featured programming language developed and marketed by Sun Microsystems. With Java, a descendant of the C and C++ programming languages, programmers can create entire applications and control consumer electronic devices. Unlike other languages, Java holds out the promise of cross-platform compatibility, that is, a programmer should be able to write one Java program that could then run on any kind of machine, whether that machine is running Windows, the Mac OS, or Unix. In practice, Java hasn't fully realized that dream, due in no small part to bickering between Sun and Microsoft as to the direction of the language. Microsoft got involved because they want to integrate Java into Windows in their own way (a way that Sun says would make Java work one way on Windows, and another way on other machines, thereby defeating Java's main purpose).

A Little JavaScript History

If JavaScript isn't related to Java, then why do they have such similar names? It's another example of one of the computer industry's most annoying traits: the triumph of marketing over substance.

When Netscape added some basic scripting abilities to its Navigator Web browser, it originally called that scripting language LiveScript. Around the same time, Java was getting lots of press as the Next Big Thing In Computing. When Netscape revised Navigator to run Java applets in Navigator 2, it also renamed LiveScript to JavaScript, hoping that some of Java's glitter would rub off. The mere fact that JavaScript and Java were very different programming languages didn't stop Netscape's marketing geniuses, and ever since then, writers like us have made good money explaining that JavaScript and Java are very different things. Come to think of it, maybe we should be thanking those marketeers.



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