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1/13/2021 11:50:38 AM
Javascript is timeless says Pluralsight
App Developer Magazine
Javascript is timeless says Pluralsight


Javascript is timeless says Pluralsight

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Brittany Hainzinger Brittany Hainzinger

Pluralsight authors Cory House, Jonathan Mills, and Nate Taylor discuss the importance of Javascript, how it is timeless, the impact it has, and the future of Javascript.

How important is JavaScript today compared to when it first launched?

Cory House
When JavaScript first launched it was unclear if it would take off. It was written in a few days, and initially only offered in a single browser. Microsoft's first browser shipped with its own flavor of JavaScript called JScript. Today, JavaScript makes the world go 'round. It runs on every computer. Every phone. TVs. Even some appliances. A huge portion of humanity relies on JavaScript every day without realizing it.

Jonathan Mills 
When JavaScript first launched, it was just there to help a webpage be interactive. JS is no longer contained in the browser. Now JavaScript has grown into a massive ecosystem that has an impact in every area of software development. As a JS developer, I can write applications on the backend, frontend, mobile devices, and IoT devices.

Nate Taylor 
The easy answer is to talk about how JavaScript is used today across the entire spectrum of software development. From web applications, mobile applications, servers, and even stored functions in databases. And while that's true, I think it neglects the importance of JavaScript when it first launched. Prior to JavaScript's introduction, the web was not much more than static hypertext delivered in a browser. Without JavaScript, we likely won't have the web that we do today, but we didn't necessarily understand that when it was first released.

What makes JavaScript such a timeless programming language?

Cory House
JavaScript is timeless because it's approachable, multiparadigm, and ubiquitous. There are multiple ways to accomplish a given task. You can code in an object-oriented or functional style. And since JavaScript has a C-like syntax, it feels familiar to people who have worked in other C-like languages. JavaScript remains "timeless" by continually embracing good ideas from other languages.

Jonathan Mills 
Honestly, I think it's a combination of simplicity and flexibility. The learning curve of JavaScript is much lower than the typical enterprise languages of C# and Java so it is easy to pick up. But its flexibility in running everywhere and its very lightweight nature make it easy to get things done everywhere. The combination of those two things, make JavaScript an easy tool to reach for given any job.

Nate Taylor
I think the number one thing is the community. It's driven by countless engineers that are constantly exploring and trying out new things. Because of the community, we now have NodeJS so that we can run JavaScript on the server. We have libraries like RamdaJS which brings in concepts from functional programming languages and makes them accessible to JavaScript developers. We even have TypeScript as a super-set of JavaScript. And through all of that, the language has grown and adapted. In some ways, the fluidity of the language that causes so many of us problems when we first learn it, is part of what keeps it going even today.

What would the web or e-commerce look like if we didn’t have JavaScript?

Cory House
Without JavaScript, the web would be similar to the late '90s. Simpler and lighter-weight, but also less feature-rich. We'd have to post back to the server on every request, leading to a clunkier user experience.

Jonathan Mills
While it's almost impossible to say what it would look like without JavaScript, I will say it would be fundamentally different.

Nate Taylor
It would be slower and more frustrating. Imagine signing up for a service. The only way to know if your username was available would be to submit the entire form to the server and have it tell you if that was available. If the name was taken, you'd have to fill out the entire form again and resubmit. Eventually, you would either find a unique name, or you'd give up. But with JavaScript, we're able to do this behind the scenes. While you're filling out the form, sometimes while you're typing the username, you can receive instant feedback if that name is available.

Additional problems would exist for e-commerce as well. A common situation today is to see something in your cart and decide to change the quantity or possibly even save it for later in a wish list. Those are relatively straight forward JavaScript calls. Without that, you would again be forced to resubmit the entire form until you were ready to proceed. 

When did you first learn JavaScript? What impact has it had on you personally?

Cory House
I learned JavaScript in the late 90s. It was awful. The debugging experience was horrendous. I often couldn't tell clearly what had failed. It ran significantly differently on Internet Explorer than Netscape. It was so painful early on that I embraced Flash and expected it to overtake HTML and JavaScript in popularity. Clearly, I was wrong! As JavaScript matured, so did related libraries and browsers. Today, coding in JavaScript is a wonderful, rapid feedback experience.

Jonathan Mills
For the vast majority of my career, I have been a backend developer in the .net and java space. But as the ecosystems grew and the sheer weight of projects increased, I found myself looking for alternatives that would let me solve business problems faster. I made the transition to the node and angular js a while ago and have never looked back. The speed and reliability of the tooling is something I really enjoy.

Nate Taylor
Sometime around 2009 was when I first started learning JavaScript. I didn't care for it because I liked working on thick client applications in C#. That said, I did see its usefulness, particularly on one side-project where I was able to use jQuery for a grid that was displaying data. Experimenting with that bit of JavaScript helped open several doors for me. It allowed me to interview for a web developer position that ended up changing the course of my career.

In addition to helping me land jobs for my 9-to-5 work, JavaScript also indirectly led me to more teaching as I advanced in my career. I found that JavaScript offered different ways of solving problems than I was used to. And in explaining those ideas to other developers I realized that I enjoyed helping others learn and grow. It was exciting to see developers grasp new ideas.

What does the future look like for JavaScript? What’s coming next year, 2-3 years from now, etc.?

Cory House
For around 10 years, JavaScript didn't change at all. Thankfully, today new JavaScript releases occur every June. In the short term, I expect to continue to see mostly minor enhancements that implement good ideas from competing languages. Longer-term, I expect to see JavaScript decreasingly used as a compile target. People will increasingly use languages that compile to JavaScript. Today, TypeScript is a popular example, but we may see other more popular, higher-level alternatives in the future. And while Web Assembly is likely to grow increasingly popular in the coming years, it will continue to interface with JavaScript to get things done.

Jonathan Mills
One of the primary complaints I have heard about JavaScript is that the massive open-source ecosystem is so hard to navigate and new frameworks pop up every day. I find that is less the case now than it was a year ago and that trend will continue. I find most developers are using one of 2 frameworks on the frontend (React and Vue) and almost everyone I know is using Express on the backend and I see that trend continuing. Improvements will be made and features added, but for the most part, I think the ecosystem has solidified to a point that you can reliably pick up a tool and know that it will be around for a while.

Nate Taylor
I think we've finally moved past the phase of JavaScript where everyone was making jokes about how fast a new library came out, and now we're to the point where we're trying to use it to provide real value to our users and clients. As a result, I think we'll continue to see JavaScript maturing. It will continue to get new features that help ease development in JavaScript. We'll continue to see more and more uses in areas that we don't immediately expect. It wasn't that long ago that it was not possible to write a mobile app in either Java or Swift, but now with frameworks like ReactNative, it's possible to use the same JavaScript skills that developers already have to create mobile apps.


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