JavaScriptNews

jQuery team responds to library's ubiquity

Rich, smart API continues to wow developers, long after initial release

Technology usage has a tendency to ebb and flow. Popular technology considered ubiquitous at one point in time may fall from lofty heights, to be replaced by younger, fitter rivals. Time will tell how jQuery fares in the years ahead, but it's currently enjoying massive success, having emerged as the clear winner in the battle for favour among JavaScript libraries.

According to W3Techs’ Matthias Gelbmann, jQuery runs on “every second website”, was the fastest-growing web technology in 2011, and shows “no sign of a saturation yet”. Even sites using other libraries (about half of those running MooTools or Prototype) tend to also add jQuery into the mix, and Gelbmann said only three countries – Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Yemen – don’t show jQuery as the most popular library. jQuery also proved hugely popular in Mozilla’s recent mobile dev survey, gaining a 74 per cent share, with 51 per cent also opting for jQuery Mobile in their work.

.net spoke to the jQuery team to get their take on the news, why they think jQuery has been such a hit, and what this means for the web development community.

.net: What’s your reaction to the revelation jQuery is now used on half of sites and yet is still growing?
Jay Blanchard: Wow! I’m not really surprised, though. The low learning curve makes it easy for developers to add jQuery to websites. You don't have to modify your markup and you can stick with the principles of progressive enhancement very easily.

Darcy Clarke: I agree – this stat isn't surprising. We've seen a gradual adoption of jQuery over a number of years. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone believing that jQuery was, or is, an overnight success. With some of the best JavaScript developers helping to drive and maintain the library, it's no wonder we still see its relevance within our development workflow six years since its initial release.

Addy Osmani: I think the news speaks volumes about the impact the jQuery team's continuous efforts to solve a number of common problems for developers (cross-browser irregularities, complex or differing APIs) have had over the past few years.

Paul Irish: This stat indicates jQuery unearthed a rich API that's quite sensible and smart. Meanwhile, the jQuery development team has worked tirelessly to sort out browser inconsistencies, reporting them upstream and fixing them for the web.

Dave Methvin: If you're looking for a sign of jQuery's ubiquity, compare the relative installed bases of jQuery (and the rest of its ecosystem such as UI, Mobile, plug-ins, and jQuery-compatible MVC such as Backbone) versus all the other JavaScript libs and frameworks. I think it's fair to say that where developers are writing JavaScript code, they are, by far, more likely to be using jQuery, although some sites are unwisely using several frameworks on their site. Last time I looked at latimes.com, they were using two different versions of jQuery and one of Prototype, all on the same page. Not sure how you want to score that one!

.net: Why do you think jQuery has been such a hit, often at the expense of other libraries?
Anne-Gaelle Colom: I believe jQuery is so popular thanks to the fact that it is constantly evolving and improving. The team listens carefully to the community and carries out extensive testing to ensure the code written by developers will run on all major browsers despite cross-browser issues. The attention to detail paid by the team doesn't stop here. The library also benefits from clear and detailed documentation, countless tutorials and other resources developed by the team or members of the community. Furthermore, when using jQuery, developers can also use jQuery UI and jQuery Mobile to create attractive and effective UIs that give the web app user a rich and pleasant experience.

Addy Osmani: I’d say it’s taken tasks that were at times challenging, time-consuming and frustrating for beginners and made them extremely straightforward to achieve. Developers almost instinctively know to use it whenever they're attempting any non-trivial manipulation with the DOM, and in many cases it's now considered an entry point for learning more about JavaScript.

Jay Blanchard: Aside from my earlier comments, I’d credit this to the jQuery team and the community. Both look for ways to help each other understand and use the library. Look at the plug-in builders. There wouldn't have been so many so quickly if the community and the jQuery team didn't support those efforts. Continuous updates to keep up with developer demands and the demands of the web industry are a huge plus. In the beginning, documentation for the jQuery library set it apart.

Darcy Clarke: jQuery has always been and will always be ubiquitous in its malleable APIs, provisions for consistent functionality cross-browser, and thriving community support. These aspects are what made the library the dominant go-to resource it is today. Along with a slew of innovative first offerings that built atop other libraries, such as Prototype, jQuery had the winning combination.

.net: How do you think a relatively ubiquitous library can benefit the web developer community?
Jay Blanchard: It gives everyone a ‘common’ language. Look at how LAMP unites a community – four different technologies, one huge community. When everyone is speaking the same language it is easier to move forward and innovate.

Addy Osmani: The jQuery project's efforts to provide clean, concise, easy to consume APIs have encouraged standards organisations to take a long, hard look at what they provide in browser APIs and we can all thank them for helping push these efforts in the right direction.

Mat Marquis: I think it acts as a great proving ground for emerging conventions. I know members of the jQuery team are very actively involved in web standards, and I think we’ll be seeing no small amount of the jQuery API’s influence appearing in native functionality in years to come.

.net: How do you see things developing in the future?
Paul Irish: Now, as the amount of bytes we ship to users has increased, I think it's important the browser platform integrates the capabilities so that we can collaboratively reduce the size of JavaScript libraries. jQuery is making great moves here, and now the onus is on standards groups to maintain the momentum, and on us developers to assist with getting users off of ancient browser versions that slow down the web.

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