The Power of JavaScript

Paul Hammond notes (in his mini links weblog) an essay, JavaScript: The World’s Most Misunderstood Programming Language. This is excellent; it covers a lot of structural stuff that JS can do that most people probably don’t realise. Frankly, I think we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible with the combination of JavaScript and the DOM in web applications. Some of the things people are doing are library-type functions to use as building blocks (for example, Simon’s document.getElementsBySelector), some are doing work with the DOM (Andrew’s posting form), but there’s very little that’s actually putting it all together. The most obvious example of something that is is Oddpost, an emulation of the Outlook UI in a browser. Drag-and-drop mails around, popup menus, it’s all there.1

There are plenty of desktop-emulations in JavaScript around, and windowing libraries, but not many people are using them. We could really move away from the whole paradigm2 of submitting things back to the webserver for changes, and start pushing a lot more out to the client. Unload our servers, give users better response times. This would be marvellous. I’m still not sure that we have the infrastructure to do it, the building blocks we need to avoid writing the whole low-level interface from scratch, although I imagine that this is what the authors of those cross-browser APIs and windowing libraries are trying to change.

  1. Well, I imagine it is. Oddpost only works in Internet Explorer. Bah.
  2. I used the word “paradigm”. Shoot me now. Shoot Thomas Kuhn first, though. :)
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