In 1995, while working for Netscape, Brendan Eich came up with a programming language that he developed in just 10 days and today is used the world over by millions of developers. It was the era of the dotcom boom when Netscape was the best (and only) web browser around and 56K dial-up modems were the epitome of speed.

Even before joining Netscape, Eich was a pioneer in computer languages, having written a number of them for Silicon Graphics (SG). It was pure employee-driven innovation very similar to what Robots & Pencils is encouraging with their own employees.

But Eich was unique. He had a knack for computer languages, and apart from building extensions into network monitoring tools for Silicon Graphics (SG), he’d even written some languages on his own time, for fun. It was, in fact, the founder of SG who, knowing Eich’s prowess for programming languages, invited him to join Netscape after he founded it in 1994 to write a language that could be incorporated into the browser.

Eich didn’t arrive at Netscape until 1995, and by then it had a deal with Sun Microsystems, which was pushing its new Java language for Netscape. It looked like Eich’s little browser language was redundant and doomed to extinction even before it was created.

Under Pressure

Eich recalls how at the time he felt pressure on two fronts. First, some at Netscape thought that there was no need for a second language if they already had Java. They didn’t see the benefit of a Visual Basic-like companion language to help mainstream programmers.

Second, there was Microsoft breathing down their necks having tried once already to buy Netscape in 1994. Microsoft became a mortal threat and was aggressively pushing its Internet Explorer in an attempt to squeeze Netscape out of the market.

Envisioning a user-friendly language

But Eich, Bill Joy of Sun Microsystems, and Marc Andreessen of Netscape, as well as a few other visionaries, saw a need for a language that was more user-friendly and approachable, and that could be put directly onto a webpage. Eich’s aim was to create something just like Basic that could be used by people who didn’t know what a compiler was.

Twenty-four years on, the seeds Eich planted in 1995 during those intense 10 days are now finally coming to fruition. JavaScript became Java’s “little brother” that could easily be integrated and used on both client and server. This creation was not developed by an entrepreneur in a garage, nor by employee under orders. Instead, we owe it to a passionate and curious employee who sensed what the world needed.

Today JavaScript is used across multiple platforms by 95% of all websites on the internet. When it comes to digital marketing, among other benefits, JavaScript adds value and increases speed through automation. JavaScript is what enables on-page web analytics and data collection. In turn, better data enables better performance as developers can collect the exact data necessary for improving marketing decisions.

In addition, JavaScript is used to program and automate repetitive tasks, which speeds up processes and enables work on a larger scale. It performs simple tasks like finding information on a page using bookmarklet as well as larger jobs like crawling sites and automating tasks with PhantomJS. It can also be used to automate tasks from email marketing reporting with Google Spreadsheet.

JavaScript and marketing

From a marketing perspective, JavaScript makes the user experience that much better. It makes websites interactive and user-friendly, and enables easy webpage navigation. JavaScript stands unique as it brings out all the special functionalities in the client’s browser rather than the site’s server.

JavaScript’s impact on the development of digital marketing has been a boon to digital marketers with eMarketer describing how digital ad spending rose to over $333 billion this year. Digital marketing spending has already surpassed televised advertising and this growing trend will continue for years to come. In fact, Maryville University predicts that digital marketing spending will balloon to more than $335 billion by 2020. By 2023, it’s predicted to exceed $500 billion and will comprise over 60% of the global ad market.

Conclusion

Eich’s JavaScript has become the de facto standard programming language of the web and digital marketers. Despite efforts from giants like Microsoft, Adobe, and Google to supplant JavaScript with their own programming languages, it continues to thrive.

Despite its flaws, it is open, standardized, and most importantly an intuitive language well suited for the web and its dynamic nature. As such, it has empowered digital marketing platforms that are enabling unprecedented user experiences and are changing the face of advertising. As with so many innovations, we owe JavaScript to the foresight of a passionate employee.

Written exclusively for Outthinker.com by Sue Richards.