JavaScript — WTF is ES6, ES8, ES 2017, ECMAScript… ?


Learning JavaScript can be confusing for a number of reasons. Don’t let these acronyms confuse you any further. Let’s break down the ES abbreviations in this JavaScript Quickie!

WTF is ECMAScript?

Here’s what happened long, long ago:

  1. JavaScript was originally named JavaScript in hopes of capitalizing on the success of Java.
  2. Netscape then submitted JavaScript to ECMA International for Standardization. (ECMA is an organization that standardizes information)
  3. This results in a new language standard, known as ECMAScript.

Put simply, ECMAScript is a standard. While JavaScript is the most popular implementation of that standard. JavaScript implements ECMAScript and builds on top of it.

Okay, so ‘ES’…?

ES is simply short for ECMAScript. Every time you see ES followed by a number, it is referencing an edition of ECMAScript. In fact, there are eight editions of ECMAScript published. Lets dive into them:

ES1, ES2, ES3, ES4

ES1: June 1997 — ES2: June 1998 — ES3: Dec. 1999 — ES4: Abandoned

I’ve grouped all of these together. These were the first 4 editions of ECMAScript, and to save time, we wont go too in-depth. Just know that the first three editions were annual, and the fourth was abandoned due to political differences.


December 2009: Nearly 10 years later, ES5 was released in 2009. It would then take almost six years for the next version of ECMAScript to be released.

ES6 / ES2015

June 2015: Perhaps the cause for all of your confusion begins here. You see, ES6 and ES2015 are the same thing.

ES6 was the popularized name prior to release. However, the committee that oversees ECMAScript specifications made the decision to move to annual updates. With this change, the edition was renamed to ES 2015 to reflect the year of release. Subsequent releases will therefor also be named according to the year they are released.

ES2016 (ES7)

June 2016: Seventh edition of ECMAScript.

ES2017 (ES8)

June 2017: Eighth edition of ECMAScript.


You may have also seen ES.Next used online. This term is dynamic and references the next version of ECMAScript coming out.


Each release brings updates and new features to the language.

Key Takeaways:

  • An update to ECMAscript can be expected annually.
  • Initial Editions of ECMAScript are named numerically, increasing by 1: ES1, ES2, ES3, ES4, ES5
  • New editions (starting with 2015) will be named ES followed by the year of release: ES2015, ES2016, ES2017
  • ECMAScript is a standard. JavaScript is the most popular implementation of that standard. Other implementations include: SpiderMonkey, V8, and ActionScript.

Hopefully the next time you see ES in the wild you’ll better understand what it’s referencing!


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