ECMAScript is the name of the scripting language standardized in ECMA-262. The name “ECMAScript” was a compromise between the organizations involved in standardizing the language, especially Netscape and Microsoft, whose disputes dominated the early standards sessions. Eich commented that “ECMAScript was always an unwanted trade name that sounds like a skin disease.”
There are five editions of ECMA-262 published. Work on version 6 of the standard, codenamed “Harmony”, is in the process of being finalized.
ECMAScript, 4th Edition
The proposed fourth edition of ECMA-262 (ECMAScript 4 or ES4) would have been the first major update to ECMAScript since the third edition was published in 1999. The specification (along with a reference implementation) was originally targeted for completion by October 2008.
ECMAScript, 5th Edition
Yahoo, Microsoft, Google, and other 4th edition dissenters formed their own subcommittee to design a less ambitious update of ECMAScript 3, tentatively named ECMAScript 3.1. This edition would focus on security and library updates with a large emphasis on compatibility. After the aforementioned public sparring, the ECMAScript 3.1 and ECMAScript 4 teams agreed on a compromise: the two editions would be worked on, in parallel, with coordination between the teams to ensure that ECMAScript 3.1 remains a strict subset of ECMAScript 4 in both semantics and syntax.
However, the differing philosophies in each team resulted in repeated breakages of the subset rule, and it remained doubtful that the ECMAScript 4 dissenters would ever support or implement ECMAScript 4 in the future. After over a year since the disagreement over the future of ECMAScript within the Ecma Technical Committee 39, the two teams reached a new compromise in July 2008: Brendan Eich announced that Ecma TC39 would focus work on the ECMAScript 3.1 (later renamed to ECMAScript, 5th Edition) project with full collaboration of all parties, and vendors would target at least two interoperable implementations by early 2009. In April 2009, Ecma TC39 published the “final” draft of the 5th edition and announced that testing of interoperable implementations was expected to be completed by mid-July. On December 3, 2009, ECMA-262 5th edition was published.
ECMAScript Harmony (6th Edition)
In the July 2008 announcement, Eich also stated that the ECMAScript 4 proposal would be superseded by a new project, code-named ECMAScript Harmony. ECMAScript Harmony names the agreed design trajectory of post-ES5 editions. It will include syntactic extensions, but the changes will be more modest than ECMAScript 4 in both semantic and syntactic innovation. Packages, namespaces, and early binding from ECMAScript 4 are no longer included for planned releases. In addition, other goals and ideas from ECMAScript 4 are being rephrased to keep consensus in the committee; these include a notion of classes based on ECMAScript, 5th Edition (being an update to ECMAScript, 3rd edition).