JavaScript Software Development: Entrepreneur’s First Steps

by Andrew M. on Jun 10, 2022

A comprehensive guide for entrepreneurs looking to incorporate JavaScript into their tech stack. In this article you will learn what JavaScript is, the best ways to use it, and what makes it the world’s most popular web development technology.

What is JavaScript?

Created by a renowned American programmer Brendan Eich in 1995, JavaScript is a programming language that was initially designed as a browser-only language for building and managing dynamic web content, adding interactivity to websites with lively components such as interactive forms, autocomplete suggestions, animated graphics, and photo slideshows.

Alongside HTML and CSS, the other two core technologies for frontend web development, JavaScript enables developers to build interactive web pages that can display different content that changes depending on the user’s time zone, region, language, or any other factor while retaining the same layout and functionality. While HTML is responsible for the structure of the page and CSS for wrapping those headers, texts, and images into a good-looking design, it is JavaScript that makes all those web elements interactive, dynamic.

Although originally created for use only in web development, today JavaScript has grown into a whole myriad of libraries, frameworks, and subtechnologies that enable both front-end and back-end development of various web, mobile, and desktop software systems. You can find core JavaScript-based components in:

  1. Web and mobile applications.
  2. Servers and databases.
  3. Games and multimedia solutions.
  4. Applications for IoT devices. 
  5. Machine learning algorithms.

Main JavaScript features

Before we move on to how JavaScript works, you should also know its core features as a programming language:

  • High-level. JavaScript strongly resembles a natural language, making it easy to understand. It combines natural language elements and mathematical notations to simplify the development process, including code updates and extensions, and enables you to automate big parts of your system’s internal workings such as memory management—something you would have to do manually when using a low-level language.
  • Multi-paradigm. JavaScript supports event-driven, functional, and imperative programming paradigms. Such a variety of programming styles available to developers provides them with the flexibility to tackle different project goals using different system design approaches.
  • Dynamically-typed. As a dynamic language, JavaScript enables source code to be executed at runtime. This means that you can immediately test changes to identify and fix possible type-checking errors in your code. This also means significantly faster turnaround and a lower degree of complexity that lead to higher programming efficiency compared to static programming languages where these actions are performed during compilation.
  • Prototype-based object orientation. In JavaScript, the code structure is based on generalized objects, which can be cloned, reused, and extended. Thus, these objects serve as templates for building new objects. These prototypes significantly simplify coding, making copying and modifying objects more direct than in class-based programming of Java, PHP, or C++, for instance.

How does JavaScript work?

As you might have already guessed from the name of it, JavaScript is a scripting language. As a matter of fact, JavaScript has become an integral part of website development. It’s the dominant client-side scripting language of the Web with 97% of websites successfully using it for the purpose.

In our case, scripting means that the language gives a computer program, an interpreter, written instructions that it executes directly, one script at a time. This stands in comparison to compiled languages such as C++ or Golang where your source code must be translated into bytecode by a compiler before it can be run by an interpreter and turned into machine code.

Client-side JavaScript enables web developers to automate processes that users would otherwise have to perform manually (e.g. reloading the page or clicking through a bunch of static pages to get to the content you’re looking for). The language’s dynamic features do all the heavy lifting for the user, making the interaction and page navigation experience much smoother.

Every web browser today comes with an embedded JavaScript engine that enables you to type commands directly into an HTML document to implement dynamic, interactive web content. Thus, developers can control a browser and its Document Object Model (DOM). Scripts are executed directly in the browser and there is no need for any additional processing software to effectively run them on client devices. Such an efficient processing model enables your web solution to provide immediate responses to user requests.

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What is Document Object Model?

Document Object Model (DOM) is a cross-platform programming interface that represents an HTML document on the Web in the form of a tree with nodes and objects. This enables a program to interact with the page, changing or managing its structure, style, and content.


As we mentioned before, JavaScript has long expanded beyond its web browser roots. You can find JavaScript engines built into other software systems, including web servers and non-browser applications, with the help of some libraries and frameworks that we will cover later in the post. The extended JavaScript can be run server side.

Server-side JavaScript communicates with databases to provide continuity of information from servers to client devices. It can be effectively applied to fetch specific files requested by the user, handle personal data, manage login procedures, or perform any other file manipulation on a server.

When and where you can use JavaScript

When and where you can use JavaScript

Even though we have already introduced you to some of the key applications of JavaScript earlier in the article, in this section, we want to provide you with more details on what this remarkable and truly versatile programming language is commonly used for.

Making web pages interactive

From popup menus to complex animations, the primary application of JavaScript will always be creating and managing dynamic web content. In this area, JavaScript remains an undisputed leader the vast majority of web developers have been using for over a quarter of a century. Google, Facebook, YouTube, Amazon, eBay, and LinkedIn, among billions of other websites—you name it. JavaScript is all over the Web, enhancing websites with interactive features.

Creating web and mobile applications

The next most common use of JavaScript is web and mobile application development. With a wide array of robust frameworks and libraries for JavaScript such as Angular, Vue.js, and React, the language provides you with all the means necessary for fast and cost-effective development of web and mobile applications. Among other distinctive advantages of JavaScript development tools are their strong mobile-first and cross-platform features.

Developing cross-platform entertainment solutions

Speaking of cross-platform, JavaScript is a very versatile language that provides you with a robust foundation for building games and other entertainment solutions. However, the answer to whether you should choose JavaScript as your core technology in this case strongly depends on the market you’re aiming for. 

In case you’re looking to target multiple web and mobile platforms with one simple cross-platform solution, JavaScript is an excellent choice that offers your development project great cost-effectiveness and fast TTM. JavaScript offers a rich choice of tools for the development of both 2D (e.g. Pixi.js or Impact.js) and 3D (e.g. Babylon.js or Three.js) entertainment applications that can run as a mobile app or directly in a browser.

If we’re talking about a complex AAA gaming project, however, JavaScript is not your most suitable choice yet. No matter its versatility, the language would be considerably heavier on resource utilization than, for example, C++ that provides for better GPU calculations.

Building servers and managing databases

Another efficient use of JavaScript capabilities is related to the server side of things thanks to a combination of JavaScript technologies such as Node.js, Express.js, and MongoDB. These powerful tools enable developers experienced with client-side JavaScript to confidently utilize their skills in a complete server-side, event-driven JavaScript programming environment. 

Server-side JavaScript is used to build scalable network applications and HTTP servers with great performance, efficient code execution, and simplified data exchange. This makes JavaScript a great choice if you’re looking to build a web server that can be easily customized and extended when such a need arises.

Enabling IoT devices

JavaScript has long been friends with a wide range of hardware IoT solutions such as Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and other Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connected devices. As an event-driven technology with cross-platform support and strong memory management capabilities, JavaScript makes a perfect match for the Internet of Things industry. 

Event loops in JavaScript enable IoT platforms to respond to events in real time and run multiple tasks simultaneously without putting too much strain on memory resources. These JS features also add to the energy efficiency of connected devices.

With Node.js and the available IoT-focused JavaScript technologies such as IoT.js, Cylon.js, and Johnny-Five, it becomes even easier for software developers to build resource-efficient and scalable IoT solutions. As the most commonly used language across the Internet, it’s only logical that the very same JavaScript is effectively leveraged to create devices that will become part of the Internet of Things.

Providing an environment for machine learning

In the past few years, Python has become the accepted leader for building machine learning, deep learning, and natural language processing solutions. While JavaScript cannot yet be considered a complete replacement for the rich roster of Python’s machine learning features, there are many reasons to consider this seemingly unusual option in the near future. Even though machine learning with JavaScript is fairly new, it’s evolving rapidly due to the growing interest of businesses worldwide in moving ML from server-side to web and mobile applications.

The accessibility of data makes the web browser environment perfect for machine learning. Today, many ML models can be compressed to run client-side, mobile devices are being equipped with chips that support ML, and that’s where JavaScript comes in with new possibilities. Unlike Python, JavaScript is natively supported by all browsers and operating systems on both mobile and desktop devices. This means that nearly all users are guaranteed to effectively run JS machine learning applications on their devices.

There are already some very promising JavaScript machine learning technologies such as Synaptic, ML5.js, Brain.js, and TensorFlow.js. These solutions can run machine learning models directly on the device without the need to install any additional software and with the possibility to run models offline. This enables companies to build fast and customized ML models, and also significantly reduces the costs of server infrastructure.

Breaking the confusion between JavaScript and Java

Breaking the confusion between JavaScript and Java

Both programming languages were released nearly at the same time. Developed by James Gosling at Sun Microsystems, Java first appeared in January 1996, and was originally designed for the purpose of starting an interactive television industry. In turn, JavaScript was developed and shipped by Brendan Eich in December 1995 as part of the Netscape Navigator browser. Even though the language’s syntax was partially influenced by Java during its development, JavaScript was originally called LiveScript and was meant for web development—specifically to add dynamic behavior to static web pages. 

Seeing that Java was quickly gaining popularity as a brand new programming language, Netscape management decided to rename LiveScript into JavaScript as a marketing ploy to popularize their own new language. Since then, there has been a common misconception that Java and JavaScript are very similar, closely related languages. It’s true that the two languages do have some things in common such as syntax and respective standard libraries, but the similarities end there, which makes their fundamental differences much more noticeable.

Key DifferencesJavaScriptJava
Language typeA scripting language that uses an object-oriented programming (OOP) approach but does not require compilation to be executed.A pure object-oriented programming (OOP) language where the code first needs to be compiled before it can be executed.
Object modelPrototype-based OOP inheritance. This means that a prototype is itself an object instance, and inheritance is implemented via the process of cloning existing objects.
Class-based OOP inheritance. This means that inheritance is built around the parent-child relationship between classes, and a class defines a type which can be instantiated at runtime.
Type checkingDynamically-typed. This means that code refactors tend to be more localized and you spend less time debugging syntax and semantic errors.Statically-typed. This means reduced likelihood of some kinds of errors (e.g. logical errors that could occur if you’re not careful in a dynamically typed language).
ConcurrencyEvent-driven approach. This means that an application processes one task at a time using callbacks, an event loop, and a queue.Thread-based approach. This means that an application divides work up among CPU threads, leaving the quality of performance to hardware capacity.
Compilation and executionStrictly interpreted. JavaScript code can be interpreted and executed directly in a web browser or through Node.js runtime environment.Compiled and interpreted. Java code is first compiled into bytecode and then interpreted on a Java Virtual Machine before it can be executed by a program.

JavaScript libraries and frameworks

JavaScript libraries and frameworks

As one of the most popular programming languages out there, JavaScript features a rich ecosystem of libraries and frameworks used to extend the language for a wide variety of purposes. These useful tools add greatly to the versatility of JavaScript, making the language favorable for both back-end and front-end development. With strong community support and constant updates, there are currently at least a hundred different libraries and frameworks available for JavaScript. Hence, such a wide range of options can be confusing to entrepreneurs when deciding which ones are most suitable for their project.

What is “vanilla” JavaScript?
Vanilla JavaScript is a term software developers use when referring to regular, pure JavaScript straight out of the box, which is used for coding without any additional libraries, frameworks, or tools.

Before we get to the most common choices, along with their features, benefits, and use cases, let’s first understand what is the difference between a JS library and JS framework.

Generally speaking, a JS library is a reusable piece of code that is usually focused on one specific use case. Depending on the purpose, a library can consist of different functions, objects, and methods that your developers can reuse and even repurpose. If utilized correctly, a library can save your development team significant time and effort on certain tasks like, for example, implementing form validation on your website, instead of coding it from scratch.

On the other hand, there’s a JS framework, a software platform that can utilize multiple libraries and serves as the groundwork for your future software solution. A framework provides you with hooks and callbacks that your developers can build upon. Equipped with predefined classes, workflows, and functions, a framework helps direct your team on the architecture for your project. It serves as sort of a blueprint that your team can populate with input data to meet your unique requirements, saving you money and time on development.

The main difference between a JS library and a JS framework lies in the flow of controls. A JS library contains snippets of ready-made code (particular app functions that your developers arrange into a workflow), while a JS framework is in charge of running these workflows (calling the code and using it in a specific way). This being said, a library in a way gives your developers greater freedom over the code structure than a framework.

JavaScript frameworks and libraries are both exceedingly useful tools, and it’s a good idea to learn some of them and see which ones would work best for which specific scenarios.

jQuery

By far the most prolific and popular JavaScript library, jQuery has long become classics in website development. According to the statistics provided by W3Techs, around 78% of the top 10 million websites on the Internet use jQuery. This fast, lightweight, and easily extensible library has a simplistic interface and is used primarily for efficiency in DOM manipulation. jQuery uses CSS selectors in manipulating style properties and finding elements to do things such as create animations, handle events, control asynchronous processing, and more. It also takes care of all cross-browser incompatibilities.

React

A Facebook favorite, React is one of the most popular open-source JavaScript libraries for front-end web development. It is widely esteemed by the web development community for making the implementation of complex, interactive UIs a simple and enjoyable experience. React encapsulates code and state using components, which it renders and updates efficiently upon data changes. React’s selective rendering and virtual DOM implementation approach help developers boost app performance regardless of the UI complexity. React is most commonly used for building single-page applications (SPAs), a kind of web applications that load content dynamically and don’t require constant page refreshes.

D3.js

D3.js (a.k.a. Data-Driven Documents) is another popular JS library that developers use for its powerful data visualization features. Much like jQuery, this great tool uses CSS selectors to perform data-driven transformations. D3.js supports a wide range of dynamic behavior features, including datasets for animations and interactions. This enables developers to do all kinds of transitions and manipulations to create anything from simple bar charts to complex data visualizations such as an interactive 3D surface plot. D3.js also features a vast collection of more than 50 different modules, each with its own purpose. The library provides your team with means to build graphical complexity within satisfying performance rates.

Underscore.js and Lodash

Underscore.js is a JavaScript utility library that consists of more than a hundred reusable functions to help your developers efficiently manipulate arrays, objects, and other functions. Instead of prototype-based, the library promotes the functional programming style that has become increasingly popular in recent years. Hence the biggest strength of Underscore.js lies in its functional programming helpers (map, filter, invoke, reduce, etc.) that help minimize the effort.

A fork of Underscore.js, Lodash was released three years later as a drop-in alternative with better performance, customization, and a more consistent cross-environment iteration support for functions. Back in 2012 many of the Underscore.js contributors moved over to the Lodash camp as the fork offered more features and better documentation.

And yet, despite the fact that the newest version of JavaScript replicates some of the functionality of Underscore.js and Lodash, both these excellent libraries still have strong community support and there is no intention to stop developing either of the two. Today they are widely depended upon and especially helpful in building functional programming applications.

Glimmer.js

Released in early 2017, Glimmer.js is a relative newcomer to the JavaScript development scene. Yet even in its early days, it is safe to say that this powerful JavaScript library has a very bright future lying ahead of it. Glimmer.js features a whole ecosystem of lightweight and fast UI components and a robust DOM rendering engine that delivers astonishing quality of performance. As a child of a JS framework called Ember.js that we will cover later in the article, Glimmer.js also inherited its powerful Ember CLI (command-line interface). The versatile library can run standalone, run with Ember.js as a component, or as a web component of an existing application.

Most used JavaScript frameworks

Bootstrap

One of the most popular open-source frameworks for front-end development, Bootstrap provides developers with great flexibility in designing fast and responsive websites. And the best part is that you don’t even need strong design skills to quickly design a decent mobile-first website. Bootstrap features a wide range of JavaScript plugins, CSS styles, and various easily customizable components (icons, buttons, modals, etc.) that enable developers to build responsive themes that look good on any mobile device. Keep in mind, however, that a website from ready-made components can’t beat custom UI/UX design, tailored to your unique business needs.

AngularJS and Angular (2+)

AngularJS is an open-source JavaScript framework created and maintained by Google. It’s been around since 2010 and has proven itself as one of the best JS front-end web frameworks for developing single-page applications. AngularJS supports two-way data binding, which reduces the need for your developers to perform complex manipulations with the DOM. It also features a readable, expressive, and fast-to-develop environment with impressive extensibility, customizability, and built-in testability. 

On December 31, 2021, however, Google will cease the support of AngularJS in favor of Angular, also known as Angular 2+, the TypeScript-based rewrite of AngularJS that features a simpler expression syntax, modularity, dynamic loading, and a robust command-line interface. And even though AngularJS will most certainly stay relevant for a while, the lack of updates and the obvious advantages of its competitor make Angular 2+ an indisputable, better choice for a fresh, long-term project.

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What is the difference between JavaScript and TypeScript?

TypeScript is a strict syntactical superset of JavaScript developed by Microsoft in 2012. It was designed as a tool that offers better scalability for the development of large JS applications. It transcompiles to JavaScript and can be effectively used to develop JS applications for both client-side and server-side execution.


Vue.js

The greatest thing about Vue.js as a progressive JavaScript framework is its incrementally adaptable architecture that enables the technology to easily scale between a library and a framework depending on different use cases. Initially created for building user interfaces, the front-end framework has seriously evolved since 2014 and can easily handle any kinds of single-page applications. It features two-way data binding as well as various components and templates with a focus on reactivity and fast page loading. It also features high performance due to the virtual DOM approach. The best uses for Vue.js are simple, lightweight applications and prototypes.

Ember.js

Ember.js is a powerful JavaScript web framework that has everything you need to start building anything from a simple cross-platform SPA to a scalable enterprise-level solution straight out of the box. It combines the best SPA-building patterns and a robust built-in development environment that features a best-in-class JavaScript router, two-way data binding, a rich data access library, and fully-featured test runners and debugging tools. Along with its strongest feature, Ember CLI, the framework makes a great all-around tool for very productive and flexible web app development. Ember.js enables asynchronous programming where different developers can work on separate parts of the same component simultaneously.

Node.js and Express

One can’t talk about the server-side capabilities of JavaScript without mentioning Node.js. More than a library or a framework, Node.js is a cross-platform, back-end runtime environment that executes JS code on the server side, outside a web browser. Developed in 2009, the technology and its “JavaScript everywhere” approach quickly gained traction as Node.js enables full-stack web app development using a single programming language for both server side and client side. 

Node.js is widely used in the development of fast and scalable network solutions such as real-time communication applications, collaboration tools, and streaming platforms. Among the most famous digital solutions that use Node.js are Netflix, PayPal, and Amazon Web Services. 

To extend the capabilities of Node.js even further, it’s most commonly used in combination with another back-end JS framework called Express.js. Designed to facilitate the development of web applications and APIs, this lightweight, minimalistic framework enables simple and productive web development. An abundance of plugins with well-documented use cases adds to the flexibility and extensibility of the framework, making it perfect for startups and enterprise projects alike.

Today both Node.js and Express.js boast a healthy ecosystem and broad support from the web development community.

The world’s love-hate relationship with JavaScript 

With so many programming languages to choose from, the world of software development counts hundreds if not thousands of different communities that are full with positive and negative opinions on various technologies and development practices. It’s clear that no matter the programming language, there will always be both full-on haters and unwavering supporters of particular tech, especially when we’re talking about something as fundamental as JavaScript is for the World Wide Web.

The more popular the technology, the more likely it is to be criticized. And JavaScript is no exception. One of the main reasons JavaScript gets an incredible amount of hate on the very Internet it keeps on building (ironic, eh?) lies in that JavaScript is such an easy starter. The language is so intuitive, easy to learn, and versatile that the market is literally drowning in JS developers. 

Considering that today there are libraries, frameworks, and plugins for everything, the language offers such a broad range of opportunities that the vast majority of JS developers rarely invest their time in learning other programming languages. Some blame the ever-growing JS ecosystem for it, and some the mediocre developers with a false sense of knowledge, stuck in the loop of constantly learning new libraries and frameworks rather than concepts. Thus, some of the key advantages of JavaScript have also become its biggest downsides.

For most JavaScript development professionals, however, it’s more of a love-hate relationship they are proud to admit. Praising for one quality, and sometimes bashing for another, skilled and experienced JavaScript developers know how truly powerful and efficient the language can be in the right hands. All you need is a clear understanding of how, when, and where this amazing technology would come in handy.

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Written by

Andrew

Andrew M., Technical Writer at QArea

Andrew is an insatiably curious geek who loves writing about technological innovation, business development, and digital transformation in the globalized world. Throughout more than 5 years of experience as a writer for different media, startups, and tech companies, Andrew has meticulously studied every aspect of the tech industry and loves sharing his knowledge with the international community.