What is JavaScript?

Today, we recorded a podcast episode for JavaScript Jabber called "What is JavaScript?" We had a long conversation about what JavaScript is based on your experience as a programmer or aspiring programmer.

Aimee Knight, one of my co-hosts, explained that it was the tool she used to tell a story on a website.

I absolutely love this explanation.

For people who are new to programming or web technologies, it's a very good way of explaining what JavaScript is. It's the language that allows you to build out the story of what someone wants to do on the web.

We also discussed other aspects of being a JavaScript Developer. I'm going to be writing a series of blog posts that explain each aspect.

This is primarily an introductory post, so it'll be short and is designed to be something JavaScript developers can share with family and friends to explain what they do.

JavaScript on the Web: Basics

JavaScript originated as the way to add features to websites.

HTML is the scaffolding that sets up the elements that go onto a website. CSS is used to decorate those elements---to tell your browser how the elements should behave and how they should look on your web page. JavaScript is what makes things happen as you interact with the page.

Experienced web developers will see this as an oversimplification, but it's a basic explanation that works.

This is where the storytelling comes in.

Storytelling with JavaScript

Imagine that your website stores and lists recipes. As you build out the web page, you'll put the ingredients into HTML elements. You'll put the instruction into other elements. You'll use CSS to make sure that it's easy to read and follow.

What is the story of following a recipe?

First, you need to go to the store and buy the ingredients.

You could have the ingredients added to a shopping list. When you click the "Add to Shopping List" button, you could use JavaScript to push the ingredients into something that keeps track of them.

Then, on your shopping list, JavaScript could keep track of which ingredients you have and don't have as you check them off.

Next, you need to mix and bake the recipe.

It could allow you to check off each step. It could show videos demonstrating how to mix the ingredients together as you click each step. If it had some way of connecting to your oven, it could actually turn it on for you. (I've seen smart appliances, but not a smart oven...)

Once you're done, you probably want to show people your masterpiece.

You could use something written in JavaScript to upload the photo from your phone to the internet. You could click a share button written in JavaScript to post the photo to Facebook or Twitter.

The buttons to upvote the recipe and the widget for commenting are probably also written in JavaScript.

What Story Do You Want to Tell with JavaScript?

Currently, I'm building an application that allows people to manage their podcasts. A lot of that story is build in JavaScript. (A lot is built in Ruby as well, but that's another post for another day.)

If you have a friend who is a programmer, ask them what the story is that they're creating with JavaScript.

If you're aspiring to be a programmer, what story do you want to tell? (Psst, leave a comment and let me know.)

If you're already a programmer, think about the real life stories that play out and consider how JavaScript could play a role in that story.

Charles Max Wood

Charles Max Wood is the CEO of Devchat.tv and host of several podcasts about software development at Devchat.tv. His passions are creating podcats for software developers, watching soccer, and playing Dungeons and Dragons. He lives in Utah with his wife, Heather, and 5 children.

Sign up for the Newsletter

Join our newsletter and get updates in your inbox. We won’t spam you and we respect your privacy.