‘You don’t get no respect’ Javascript

If Rodney Dangerfield was a web developer he would surely use this line at some point in his life. As for me, I have watched for the past 10 years the development of internet technologies and in particular how Javascript has emerged as a dominant tool and language.  In todays ‘web 2.0’ internet sites like Facebook and companies like Google have pushed the language far beyond what most would have thought possible.  This is in part due to a fairly small number of pioneers in the language that recognized its strengths and flexibilities and kept pushing and pushing.

In today’s web, Javascript now has a vast army of advocates.  Frameworks such as Dojo and Google Prototype have shown what is possible.  Toolkits like JQuery and MooTools have become full fledge Frameworks without the moniker.  All of these and many others provide some great cross browser Ajax functionality along with basic effects and methods for dealing with those always nasty cross browser issues that can often nail you.  Even Microsoft introduced the ASP.NET Ajax Framework several years ago.  As is often the case Microsoft was behind in the game but that is a topic for another post.

Despite all of this development something interesting has “not” happened.  Ajax Frameworks have not been overwhelmingly adopted by the development community as a whole.  In my experience in working with other .NET developers getting these frameworks introduced into the development vernacular is akin to getting a Cobol developer to move to OO.  Why is this, I have to ask myself? I have run into similar mind sets within the Java community as well.  Do these “middle tier” developers simply not like the idea of something that does not plug into their IDE and allow for drag and drop.  Let’s face it there is no real reason why I should be allowing my .NET code to process everything server side with post backs simply to do some validation or to send a single piece of user input back to the server.  I know you are saying to yourself that .NET has AJAX.Net but it was plugged into .NET by Microsoft as an afterthought in my opinion.  Scrape the result code some time and you will see what I mean, again that’s another post.

So why this fear of Javascript libraries?  Is it that they do not port well, don’t think so!  They are more portable across browser platforms than any server side control that decides back at the server how to serve up the html and supporting javascript.  Could it be that the language is too difficult to learn? Surely this cannot be the case. Although the language is very simple, dealing with cross browser issues can be a bit intimidating but so is learning .NET or Java the first time around.  Is it that Javascript is not OO.  Well it is and if you are not writing your code with classes and singletons your missing the whole point.  That’s akin to working with .NET or Java and not relying on XML.

Is it that they do not provide the ‘wiz bang’ interface that server side controls provide.  Don’t think so!  I will put ExtJS or Javeline against Telerik any day with a user community and I bet I know who will win.

I can think of several reasons why hard nosed chip heads are not buying in.  The first and foremost is that Javascript is not compiled.  While this may be true, the industries move towards these libraries certainly almost guarantees someone or someone’s will develop one.  Let’s hope that the best one wins not the one with the most money. Another possible reason is a ‘not in my backyard’ over inflated sense of job protection along with aged and graying I.T. managers who simply don’t get it and don’t want to.  By the way I am fairly gray myself!  Perhaps I am a little jaded as I work in Ottawa which is a government town and governments tend to be fairly behind in the technology curve. If you do an internet job search for AJAX and or Javascript the majority of the jobs are in California, New York and Europe.  I guess these are the ‘hot spots’ for client side OO.  Let’s hope the wave of enthusiasm hits the rest of the world when clients start saying things like ‘can it work like FaceBook when I type in a search?’

Just another opinion…

Keith

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