You Got Your Javascript In My Peanut Butter

I have always tried to embrace a minimalist approach to software design. Even early on in my career when I had no idea what I was doing. In those days I rode a horse-drawn carriage to work and used a pointed stick to scratch PHP3 code directly onto the server’s hard-drive platter. Good times. Back then JavaScript was like window dressing – a bit of flair for the UI – definitely not something you relied on for the web application to function.

It was possible some of your users might not have JavaScript support, and at the time we actually cared about those users. The first two major Open Source web applications I built both worked without JavaScript. I’m pretty sure that increased our user-base over the period of a decade by at least 1. Totally worth it.

These days it seems nobody cares about users without JavaScript. Even me. I care only enough to display a noscript tag with a message stating it’s required, but only when I’m feeling particularly ambitious. In my head I picture users with JavaScript disabled as middle-aged versions of Kip from Napoleon Dynamite, all of whom used punch cards in college, started in IT as a data processor in the late 80’s, and are still running Windows NT (or wish they were). Now that I think of it, if they are running NT they probably should have JavaScript disabled.

As much as I dislike the language – and I do – it makes sense to offload parts of an application to the client. Let’s face it, you can’t be all super-web 3.0.1 if you don’t make constant AJAX requests in the background the moment a page loads. I may be a neck-bearded curmudgeon, but I have begrudgingly come to accept that JavaScript is the best way available at this point in time to improve web applications past what HTML5 brings to the table. To a point.

As an industry we seem to be lurching towards JavaScripting all the things. JavaScript only interfaces! JavaScript on the server! JavaScript interpreters written in JavaScript! The older I get the more I try to balance my skepticism of new ideas with a willingness to keep an open mind, but I am having a hard time catching a ride on the all-JavaScript-all-the-time bandwagon. Maybe I am biased by the five years I was forced to use a bloated unintuitive framework for a former employer, of which the only thing I remember (aside from being gigantic) was how effin horrible it was to work with. But probably not. Additionally, I seem to have missed the memo to web developers that everyone in the world now has high speed internet so we can push gobs of scripts client-side even to perform the most simplistic task. I’m slightly offended nobody told me. Have I also been walking around with a booger hanging out of my nose? Come on people, throw me a bone here.

Running JavaScript on the server is interesting, but for me it’s interesting in the same way that a squirrel water-skiing behind a toy boat in a backyard pool is interesting. I realize event-driven non-blocking I/O is the new Holy Grail of server-side processing, and buzzword-laden start-ups are required to use it in their stack in order to get funding, but I just can’t seem to let go of a well tuned web-server with a fast scripting language and moderate use of JavaScript in the client as an effective foundation for building web applications. Then again I don’t have good reading comprehension because my eyes are worn out from years of articles about the latest technology fad revolutionizing web development, so maybe I am just missing the toy boat.

I didn’t start this post with the intent of bashing JavaScript, and the fact that I now rank it slightly above “necessary evil” (but still below “creepy cousin”) is as close to an endorsement of the language as I have ever come. One could even conceivably describe it as being “handy” for limited purposes *grinds teeth*. Maybe someday I will be telling my great grand-kids about the crazy old days when there were other programming languages, way back before every conceivable app was ported to JavaScript and all knowledge of anything else was lost to generations past. Somehow I doubt it.

One thought on “You Got Your Javascript In My Peanut Butter

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