The Web Unscripted: A World Without JavaScript

Jonathan Fielding
4 min readMay 29, 2023
Photo by Unseen Studio on Unsplash

In September 1995, Brandan Eich famously developed a new scripting language in just ten days. Initially, it was called LiveScript however, the name was quickly changed to JavaScript, and it grew up and evolved into the programming language we know and love today.

While enjoying my bank holiday weekend, I wondered what the world would be like if none of this had happened and JavaScript did not exist. I then decided to share some of these thoughts with you all.

In the early days of the World Wide Web, around the mid-1990s, websites were static, composed primarily of HTML for structure and CSS for styling. The experience was akin to reading a book; you could consume information, but the interaction was minimal. The web was a fantastic resource for information, but it felt more like a library than an interactive playground.

In this alternative reality, the scripting language known as JavaScript was never created. With JavaScript absent from the equation, the dynamic, interactive elements that have become integral to the modern web experience did not exist. This meant that the web remained largely static.

HTML and CSS could create and style elements but couldn’t respond to user interactions in real-time. This meant that elements like dropdown menus, interactive forms, sliders, and animations — things users often take for granted today — were impossible to implement. Every time a user submitted a form, a full page refresh was required, even for the most minor of data submissions. Interacting with a webpage was a slow and arduous process, as every interaction required a server round trip and a page refresh.

Online shopping, which requires a high degree of interactivity, was particularly arduous. Without JavaScript, there was no way to dynamically update a shopping cart as users added or removed items. This meant that for each item a user wanted to add or remove, a full page refresh was required. The user experience was slow and frustrating, and the inefficiency likely deterred many potential customers.

Social media platforms, too, struggled in this JavaScript-less world. Real-time updates, which are so crucial to the appeal and functionality of platforms like Facebook and Twitter, were non-existent. Users would have to…

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Jonathan Fielding

Staff Engineer working for @Spendesk, speaker about web things, writing about tech, contributor to open source. If you like what I write make sure to follow.