Dan Connolly's tinkering lab notebook

Why was JavaScript standardized by ECMA and not W3C?

Originally posted on quora

Netscape shopped the technology around W3C before taking it to ECMA.

I managed the relevant part of W3C, and I didn't think W3C should get into standardizing programming languages.

One reason has to do with the Rule of least power. It's very much on purpose that HTML is not a programming language, unlike contemporary technologies such as TeX and nroff.

Also, I believe that at the time, I didn't think the time was right to give any one programming language a privileged place in the web. I think IE supported VBScript, and I thought tcl/python/perl/scheme should be allowed to compete. Perhaps I was right that it was too early to pick a winner; perhaps not. I don't recall exactly when this happened.

I think some of the staff (e.g. TimBL) were open to the idea, but not supportive enough to move all the relevant mountains. Maybe one or two were strongly against on technical grounds. In particular, noone on the staff made the effort to put together a proposal to the membership that W3C should take on the work. So the Netscape folks took the work to ECMA, where the process for starting work is quite different.

I'm reasonably happy with the result, in any case. The folks who are stewarding Javascript these days seem to be doing really well.

Maybe we could have fixed a few warts if W3C had taken it on sooner than ECMA, but I think it's not likely.

p.s. Interesting... Carl Cargill, one of the people who I'm pretty sure talked with me about whether W3C should work on Javascript, writes "... Microsoft had just forced Netscape to standardize JavaScript in Ecma." in Why Standardization Efforts Fail.