Sunday, April 1, 2012

Where we were

Javascript has come a long way from being a toy language where kids would copy snippets off other sites to add something cool to their website. It has become the glue that holds the internet together giving it that behavioral layer which allows us to interact with the content and each other.

Rather than be a history lesson I'd like to look at a couple of things that has made javascript what it is today. If you do want a history lesson and to go in to more detail then I'd heartily recommend watching the Crockford on JS series.

Web 2.0

One of the main contributors to the language and it's use evolving is AJAX. Those four letters took the idea that a webpage was a single piece of content and turned it on it's head allowing programmers to bring in new content to the page. The first letter is perhaps the most important, asynchronous.

Being asynchronous the sites could change and become a whole new page without ever navigating, new content could be brought in and so we could do more with the page that we were on. This also meant that we could process the information that was sent to us and move the logic from the server side to the client side. Because of this we needed two new advances.

The first was how to send the information. The last letter stood for XML. This was a cumbersome way of giving data which was tricky to traverse and had a lot of repetition. Luckily there was a data format that we were already familiar with JSON.

The second breakthrough was the speed. Browsers began to realize that speeding up javascript execution allowed for better experiences in the browser. Google came out with chrome to push those boundaries. Javascript performance is still increasing and is extending what is possible inside the browser.

With these improvements javascript is no longer the toy language where anyone who has copied a snippet can claim to know javascript. The language is now something to be taken seriously and so we need to take our development approach seriously. In the next installment we'll touch upon some of the things that a modern day javascript programmer should know

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