Category: CommunityWhat’s Powering The JavaScript Renaissance?

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The Javascript RenaissanceIf you consider the languages that garner the most vociferous denunciations, it would appear that web designers and developers got the short end of the stick. Two of the most popular languages in web development — PHP and JavaScript — are also the most maligned. Curiously, especially in the case of JavaScript — that oddly designed and misnamed concoction — they’ve never been more popular.

JavaScript’s weird and confounding type coercion — the bane of many a bug hunter — is enough on its own induce condemnation from language purists and theoretically inclined developers. Some are still peeved that JavaScript is associated with the more reasonable Java. In reality, there was no real connection between the two outside of Netscape’s marketing department. JavaScript is an implementation of ECMAScript, which bears little resemblance to Java.

And yet, much to the chagrin of the connoisseurs of language flamewars, JavaScript is undergoing a huge renaissance. According to GitHut, a tracker of language popularity on GitHub, JavaScript is massively in the lead on numerous metrics when compared to every other language, including Java, which it pushes into second place. Of course, GitHub popularity is a biased measure — not many enterprise development teams keep their code in public GitHub repos — but it’s a measure worth paying attention to. As I’m writing, there are nearly 340,000 repositories for JavaScript code. Java has more than 100,000 fewer, followed by Python, CSS, and PHP.

Why is JavaScript so popular? At a fundamental level, the answer is obvious. It was the only game in town for web developers and designers who needed client-side execution without the horrors of Flash and other unpleasantries. It’s the only language built into every browser that matters. That still pertains, but it’s not what is driving the current massive boom in JavaScript development.

We can lay that at the feet of Node.js. A few years ago, any developer who suggested server-side JavaScript development would have been put in the naughty corner. Google’s work on improving the performance of JavaScript with its V8 engine made server-side JavaScript a possibility. Node.js made it a reality. Now all the web developers who commiserated over their fate have access to a fast, concurrent, network-ready programming environment with a huge module ecosystem, most of which come with easy-to-use APIs.

One of the most popular Node.js products is Ghost — a blogging engine intended as a replacement for WordPress for bloggers who don’t need that venerable application’s complexity. Node is entirely capable of supporting complex applications that would previously have been written in PHP. And it’s not just Node. React.js is hugely popular at the moment, as is Angular, and other JavaScript libraries for creating web applications.

I’ll probably get kicked for saying so, but we might have a situation in which PHP is replaced in many situations by JavaScript — a nice irony for who that have spent years commiserating the design of both. In reality, that’s unlikely. PHP is still going strong and with PHP 7 on the horizon, it shows no signs of going anywhere fast.

JavaScript is also scheduled to get a version bump this year. ECMAScript 6 is on the way, and will bring with it such improvements as classes, iterators, and generators. It’s likely that JS is going to be king of the hill for a some years to come.

Image: Flickr/ruiwen

Jul 21, 2015, 1:01 pmBy: Corey Northcutt (0) Comments

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