Is Javascript the Same As Java?

Category: Webmaster

Please enable Javascript in your browser, says a Web site. What is Javascript and should you enable it? You already have the Java runtime installed, so why doesn't Javascript run? These are some common questions. Here are the answers...

What is JavaScript?

Javascript is a relatively basic programming language designed specifically for Web applications. It's built into popular Web browsers such as Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari, so there's no need to download or install it.

Javascript was created to make Web programmers' jobs easier and make Web browsing safer. All of Javascript's functions have to do with actions that take place on a web page: popping up windows; checking data entered into forms; powering on-page calendars and calculators; making cute little sprites bounce around; and many more useful functions. But the point is, all Javascript functions take place within the "sandbox" of a Web browser. That's a safety feature.

Java is a complete programming language and cross-platform software development tool. You need the Java runtime environment, a software package separate from your Web browser, to run Java applications with or without a browser.
Javascript calendar

So Is Java the same as Javascript? Is Javascript a subset or spinoff of Java? No, and no. Unfortunately, Netscape re-branded LiveScript as JavaScript back in 1995, and confusion has reigned ever since. The only real similarity is the name.

Javascript is a simple programming language compared to Java. Javascript has a relatively limited set of functions that can be used to create programs, so it's easier to learn. Also, Javascript programs can use the client's computer instead of consuming server resources. Web masters like that because it makes your computer do the work and saves them money. It also makes Web sites faster for everyone because the work done by Javascript applications is not slowing down the Web server.

Javascript does not include functions for doing things with your general computing resources, such as creating or deleting files. That is one of Javascript's biggest safety features. Bad guys can't use Javascript malware to damage your computer. But Javascript is not without its security vulnerabilities.

Is JavaScript Safe?

I'm sure you've heard stories from your Cousin Vinny, passed along from a reliable source who knows a guy whose uncle works next door to the police department in a major city. "Turn off Javascript! Or evil hackers will take over your computer, steal your identity and sign you up for magazines your mother would not approve of."

It's true that security vulnerabilities in Javascript have popped up over the years. But they are not as common as they were in the early days of Javascript; and they tend to be patched quickly. Occasionally, bad guys discover a new way to exploit Javascript for nefarious purposes. So that's why I recommend that you put your system updates on autopilot and use good anti-virus and anti-spyware protection.

My opinion is that Javascript does not pose a significant threat, especially if you pay attention to the security precautions I just mentioned. I also think it is too useful to turn off. A lot of things on a lot of websites just won't work without it. I've been online since the early 1990's, I've never turned off Javascript, and it's never caused me any problems.

But if you really want to disable Javascript, or I've convinced you to turn it back on, here's how. Firefox, Internet Explorer, and most other Web browsers let you enable and disable Javascript at will in their "Options" settings.

In Firefox, click on the Tools button on the main toolbar. Then select Options. Click on the "Content" tab and check or uncheck the "Enable Javascript" checkbox.

In Internet Explorer, click on Tools, then Internet Options. Select the Security tab and then click the Custom Level button. Scroll down to the "Scripting" part of the list and click to enable or disable Javascript. Close and restart the browser to make the changed Javascript settings take effect.

Got something to say about JavaScript? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Is Javascript the Same As Java?"

Posted by:

24 Jan 2010

To test if Java or JavaScript works for you, go to test site . Try this URL in each of your installed browsers for the JavaScript version used by that browser - you'll be surprised by the different levels used by Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome for example.

Posted by:

24 Jan 2010

Bob, I strongly disagree with your assessment here. On WindowsXP SP2 or better simply turning off JavaScript and plugins will disable 99.99999% of malware making windows more secure than either OSX or GNU-Linux. If you’re using a 'real' internet browser you can toggle on-off JS and scripting on the fly.

JavaScript is an OLD technology full of holes!

EDITOR'S NOTE: You're welcome to your opinion, but most of the malware attacks that I read about have to do with exploits that target the browser and the operating system. There are also a large number that use social engineering tactics to bypass security. What unpatched Javascript exploits do you know of that are currently affecting significant numbers of people?

Posted by:

George R Hale
24 Jan 2010

Your article on Java was interesting. I have wondered about Java for a long time.

I have IE 6 and WIN XP Home and SP2 and updates. I can't find the button for Javascript ??? Just Java Applets ???


Posted by:

28 Jan 2010

George, Javascript programs don't need to be installed on your machine before they can run. They're downloaded by, or with, each web page when you visit that page in your browser. So that's why you can't view the Javascript programs on your machine - there aren't any hanging around (just some in your temp folder, probably).

Java Applets, on the other hand, require installation, and can be much more insidious. They remain on your computer even after your done using them (just in case you might need them again). That's why your browser gives you an interface which you can use to view, and remove, your Java Applets.

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Posted by:

Hervey Warriner
05 Nov 2013

Using IObit uninstaller, I try to keep my programs to a minium. I recently deleted Javascript from my Dell PC and my sound stopped dimmed down to practically nothing. IObit assured me it was making a backup before deleting, but I cannot find it, and can't seem to get my sound back. I downloaded "Coopoint Sound Troubleshooter" freeware from Tucows, which told me my sound is working just fine. So I dumped that then reloaded reloaded Java to no avail, should I reload Javascript? I've checked every sound level control I can find including Windows, Zune, RealPlayer, Windows Mediaplayer and iTunes. Using any of these programs and also online pages, with everything maxed out(10)I get just enough sound to hear unless the dog starts scratching. I have Logtech speakers which have performed well set less than halfway, and now they crackle loudly when I checke the connetions, so I'm pretty sure it's software. I've been online looking for solutions for a couple of days, loaded several programs claiming to be free which have found hundreds of problems they can fix for the special price of $29.97 (today only), but being unemployed, I'm cheap, and I always uninstall these wonders. Any thoughts? I hate to pay 30 bucks if it's only a switch or a reset or something. Thanks.

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