Whenever you read about JavaScript you’ll inevitably see one of these terms:

  • ES3
  • ES5
  • ES6
  • ES7
  • ES8
  • ES2015
  • ES2016
  • ES2017
  • ECMAScript 2017
  • ECMAScript 2016
  • ECMAScript 2015

What do they mean?

They are all referring to a standard, called ECMAScript.

ECMAScript is the standard upon which JavaScript is based, and it’s often abbreviated to ES.

Beside JavaScript, other languages implement(ed) ECMAScript, including:

  • ActionScript (the Flash scripting language), which is losing popularity since Flash will be officially discontinued in 2020
  • JScript (the Microsoft scripting dialect), since at the time JavaScript was supported only by Netscape and the browser wars were at their peak, Microsoft had to build its own version for Internet Explorer

but of course JavaScript is the most popular and widely used implementation of ES.

Why this weird name? Ecma International is a Swiss standards association who is in charge of defining international standards.

When JavaScript was created, it was presented by Netscape and Sun Microsystems to Ecma and they gave it the name ECMA-262 alias ECMAScript.

This press release by Netscape and Sun Microsystems (the maker of Java) might help figure out the name choice, which might include legal and branding issues by Microsoft which was in the committee, according to Wikipedia.

After IE9, Microsoft stopped branding its ES support in browsers as JScript and started calling it JavaScript (at least, I could not find references to it any more)

So as of 201x, the only popular language supporting the ECMAScript spec is JavaScript.

Current ECMAScript version

The current ECMAScript version is ES2018.

It was released in June 2018.

When is the next version coming out?

Historically JavaScript editions have been standardized during the summer, so we can expect ECMAScript 2019 to be released in summer 2019, but this is just speculation.

What is TC39

TC39 is the committee that evolves JavaScript.

The members of TC39 are companies involved in JavaScript and browser vendors, including Mozilla, Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Intel, PayPal, SalesForce and others.

Every standard version proposal must go through various stages, which are explained here.

ES Versions

I found it puzzling why sometimes an ES version is referenced by edition number and sometimes by year, and I am confused by the year by chance being -1 on the number, which adds to the general confusion around JS/ES 😄

Before ES2015, ECMAScript specifications were commonly called by their edition. So ES5 is the official name for the ECMAScript specification update published in 2009.

Why does this happen? During the process that led to ES2015, the name was changed from ES6 to ES2015, but since this was done late, people still referenced it as ES6, and the community has not left the edition naming behind - the world is still calling ES releases by edition number.

This table should clear things a bit:

Edition Official name Date published
ES9 ES2018 June 2018
ES8 ES2017 June 2017
ES7 ES2016 June 2016
ES6 ES2015 June 2015
ES5.1 ES5.1 June 2011
ES5 ES5 December 2009
ES4 ES4 Abandoned
ES3 ES3 December 1999
ES2 ES2 June 1998
ES1 ES1 June 1997

People commonly refer to “ES6” when they actually mean “modern JavaScript”. In this course I will exclusively talk about modern JavaScript, so if all this ES talk is confusing, don’t worry. Just take note that every summer, JavaScript gets some new features which might be useful to your day to day, or might be a less popular thing that is only used by very advanced developers.

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