By Chris Minnick, Eva Holland

Of all the things that were invented in the earliest days of the web, the thing that has had the biggest impact over the longest time was JavaScript. In the early days of the web, every web page consisted of nothing but plain text in different sizes with links between pages.

There were no web forms, there certainly wasn’t any animation, and there weren’t even different styles of text or pictures! When the web was new, it was exciting to click from page to page and discover new things. Even more exciting was how easy the web made it for anyone to be able to publish anything at all and have the potential for anyone else on the Internet to read it.

But when people got a taste of what the web could do, they wanted more features! Graphics, text colors, forms, and many other features were introduced very quickly.

JavaScript was created in order to make it possible for web browsers to be interactive. Interactive web pages can range from simple forms that provide feedback when you make a mistake, to 3D games that run in your web browser. Whenever you visit a website and see something moving, or you see data appearing and changing on the page, or you see interactive maps or browser-based games, chances are, it’s JavaScript at work.

To see some examples of websites that are made possible by JavaScript, open up your web browser and visit the following sites:

  • ShinyText: ShinyText is an experimental website that uses JavaScript to display a word. You can adjust different properties of the word, such as Reflection Power and Repulsion Power to see what effect these changes have on how the letters in the word react when you move them around with your mouse. This figure shows ShinyText in action.

    ShinyText uses JavaScript to produce a 3D physics simulation.

    ShinyText uses JavaScript to produce a 3D physics simulation.

    Even if you don’t understand how it works, ShinyText is fun to play with, and it’s a great example of what’s possible with JavaScript.

  • Interactive Sock Puppet: Interactive Sock Puppet is another 3D animation. This time, you can control the movements and facial expressions of a JavaScript puppet. This figure shows the Interactive Sock Puppet looking quite happy.

    Interactive Sock Puppet lets you control a JavaScript dinosaur sock puppet.

    Interactive Sock Puppet lets you control a JavaScript dinosaur sock puppet.
  • Facebook: Facebook uses a lot of JavaScript. When you see a smooth animation or video playback, or when a list of posts updates by itself, that’s JavaScript at work!

    Facebook uses JavaScript to do everything.

    Facebook uses JavaScript to do everything.

Some of these examples use some very advanced features of web browsers. Use the latest version of Google Chrome to view these. The examples may not work in older web browsers.