Javascript, Rebranded

I’m listening to Steve Yegge’s talk on branding from last years OSCON.

He talks about how languages are branded, e.g. “Java” is enterprise. One of his main points is that brands are “const identifiers”, i.e. it takes an entire generation to change brand perception, so it’s often more effective to simply re-brand. e.g. GTE had a poor brand, so they tried a self-deprecating ad campaign, which backfired, and subsequently re-branded to Verizon.

He then mentions Javascript has a branding problem, because it represents “browser” and “toy language” and “damnit, I gotta learn Javascript” and it’s the language no-one wants to use. He also notes the name itself isn’t great either, nor the rhino imagery. (I’m not sure why Steve assumed many programmers would associate Javascript with rhinos; the Rhino product and O’Reilly cover weren’t really promiment enough to do that; rhino ain’t camel!). I don’t agree with this premise. Javascript has actually become at least somewhat cool in certain communities, pretty quickly. Not the obvious ones like Rails and general web 2.0 fanboys/girls, but also PHP and Perl folks who would have previously been uninterested in it.

Anyway, he leaves the issue open and implies Javascript needs to be re-branded. But isn’t the point here that Javascript, for most and intents and purposes, already has been re-branded, like sometime around February, 18, 2005? It now shares its name with that of a domestic cleaning product, Dutch football team, and Greek God. For most people, Javascript became cool and worthy the day Ajax was coined; and Ajax encapsulates most of what is meant by Javascript. Of course, the two aren’t strictly synonymous, but when you set out to learn Ajax, you’re predominately learning Javascript. Go read a day or two of Ajaxian news and the vast majority will involve Javascript at some level.

Javascript has already been rebranded. In fact, I’d go so far as to say “Ajax” was one of the most successful rebrandings in software history.