Wednesday, October 8, 2008

JavaScript found in trash – worth millions

Since 2006, we’ve been in the midst of a programming revolution on the web that hasn’t been led by the big guns. In fact, the people have spurned Sun’s Java, Microsoft’s .NET, and even the open source PHP when it came to adding some functionality above that of the simple link on a web page. The server based languages are just getting too complex for the guy who wants a little action on the page and used to grab a cgi piece of code he really didn’t understand.

Actually the revolution was more about dusting off a very valuable work of art and seeing that it had more value than originally thought of. It’s almost as exciting as going to the Antiques Roadshow and finding that your old found-in-the-trash painting of odd brushstrokes is by one of the great Mexican masters of modern art worth over a million bucks. The real art I’m talking about is JavaScript (ECMAScript for you purists).

JavaScript has gotten a bad reputation for doing bad things. Pop-unders were annoyances and JavaScript made it easy to track all your browsed pages making some marketing sense out of it which drew the wrath of the privacy minded folk. But now the user interface madness has settled down and we’re taking a second look at this red headed stepchild language.

It’s not the little guys who are noticing but Microsoft and people like Nokia, the largest cell phone manufacturer in the wireless world, that are starting to rally around this misunderstood language. JavaScript was much ahead of its time with strange object-oriented syntax that more resembles the cutting edge functional programming style rather than the current OO style. But it was in need of standardization and simplification.

The open source community (read programmers who don’t date much) started providing alternate ways of using JavaScript that helped us solve the standards issues and make it easy and once again fun to use. The top contenders were jQuery, MooTools, and Dojo. Even Google got involved with storing those libraries of code in a common place and wrote a library for Java programmers that generated JavaScript.

What happened just last week is that the big guns got back in the game. Microsoft is adding jQuery to their core development code. Wait a minute. That’s Microsoft, the Great Beast of the Northwest who either buys you, out markets you, or beats you into a pulp with their lawyers? And they’re adding open source to Visual Studio with their own jQuery components?

Well, that’s nothing new to Oracle who has been building and integrating Java and Java open source components into their architecture for years. Even Java is open source now. The right model is more of a big picture play than a little product profit. Oracle has shown itself to be solid as a systems integrator and Microsoft is finally starting to see the light.

And Nokia will be adding jQuery to a browser in their 100 million or so phones that they ship every quarter. Developers will be able to use it as well for better applications that will help them regain market share back from the iPhone.

The start of this revolution from the flotsam and jetsam of the web world is going to bring life to Web 2.0 sites. And now the stamp of approval on a common code library that makes JavaScript easy again will make for some exciting times. Visual effects, server code integration with Ajax, and total control of the browser is within reach of many more programmers than ever before. Look over some of the exciting jQuery powered web sites to see where we are going.

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