JavaScript is the lingua franca of the web, the standard way of building applications that run inside the browser. Created in the mid-’90s by an engineer at Netscape—the company that first pushed the web browser into the mainstream—this fairly simple programming language has allowed even those with little coding experience to create dynamic web sites and services. But in recent years, Javascript has evolved into something more. It’s a way of rapidly building applications of almost any kind, from apps that run on iPhones and Android devices to the server software that drives these apps from inside distant computer data centers.

Today, Google pushed JavaScript even further down this road, releasing a “beta” version of Angular 2, a new incarnation of a widely used tool that aims to simplify and streamline the way that coders build apps with JavaScript. The original Angular—first released six years ago as an open source project—was strictly for building apps inside the browser. But Angular 2 extends beyond the browser, letting coders build native apps for iPhones and Android devices.

“Angular 1 was tightly coupled with the DOM, with the browser,” says TJ VanToll, a senior developer advocate at Telerik, a company that helps coders build mobile apps of all kinds and has made use of the earlier “alpha” version of Angular 2. “One of Angular 2’s big goals is to break that tie, to make it possible for Angular to be used in those other ecosystems.”

In certain circles, Angular 2 has been controversial. Google first announced the project in March of last year, saying it was rewriting the Angular framework with an eye towards code that runs on mobile phones. Many developers complained that the tool was too much of a departure from the original Angular, that it would be too difficult to use it with their existing sites and services. But some, including VanToll, believe that Google has made amends. “It was seen as this big breaking change. It seemed you couldn’t upgrade your apps at all,” VanToll says. “But they’ve done a lot in the recent months to speak to those concerns.”

It was a long time in coming. As VanToll points out, 21 months is an awfully long time to stay in alpha. But the result is another step in the gradual evolution of JavaScript. Earlier this year, Facebook released versions of its React framework for building native JavaScript apps for the iPhone and Android. And thanks to Node.js, coders and businesses are also building JavaScript software that run on the server.

In recent years, Angular and React have become the most popular frameworks for building JavaScript apps for the browser. With React Native, Facebook gave the React community a good way of moving beyond the web. Now, Google has done the same for the Angular community. The upshot that people who are already using JavaScript to build for the browser can now build iPhone and Android apps as well. “There are a lot of companies out there, a lot of people, who have those existing web skills,” VanToll says. “The aim here is to make it easier for these developers who have these skills to build things they traditionally wouldn’t be able to.”

This phenomenon is part of a much larger trend in the world of computer programming. Increasingly, new programming languages and tools are allowing a much broader range of people to build software of all kinds. Another prime example is Apple’s new Swift programming language, which began as a much easier way of building apps for the iPhone and is now expanding onto other devices, including servers. Meanwhile, Google’s Go language—which streamlines coding in other ways—is moving the other direction, from servers onto mobile devices.

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Google’s Angular 2 Release Pushes JavaScript Beyond the Browser