Why JavaScript Is Doomed

By John Sonmez

Update: I posted an update to this post where I talk about why I was wrong about JavaScript here. We are all human, we all make mistakes. I’m leaving this post and not deleting it, because I think it is important to learn from our mistakes.

JavaScript is a bubble.

Just like the housing bubble.

Just like the .COM bubble.

bubble thumb Why JavaScript Is Doomed

And just like any bubble, the JavaScript bubble is bound to pop.

Sure, JavaScript is everywhere.  It appears to be growing at a rapid pace.  But I’m willing to bet that we are getting close to a complete reversal that will throw JavaScript down from its throne, shattering its JQuery scepter with it.

JavaScript never really made a comeback

Part of the problem with JavaScript is that it’s propped up on the back of another technology. See, JavaScript itself was rejected long ago. If JavaScript was a wonderful language to develop in, its wonders would have been praised years ago when it was first introduced. But I remember cursing JavaScript 15 years or so ago.  And I wasn’t alone.

Yes, I know it was a dark time, but recall, if you will, your pure hatred for JavaScript.  You know, before it was so cool.

Then how did this ugly wart of a language become so popular?

Well, you see, it was this little library called JQuery. JQuery solved a very real and annoying set of problems that wasn’t around when JavaScript was first invented: manipulating the DOM and making Ajax calls.

JQuery was basically designed to make JavaScript possible to work with. Before JQuery, DOM manipulation and Ajax calls were difficult. After JQuery, they were easy.band aid thumb Why JavaScript Is Doomed

So JQuery ended up being this big band-aid that covered up all the ugly JavaScript code you didn’t want to write and made doing what you wanted to do much easier.

You may disagree with me on this point, and you are welcome to do so, but even if JQuery isn’t the reason JavaScript is so hot right now, do you honestly think JavaScript would have become so popular if JQuery never existed?

The problem with JavaScript

I want to love JavaScript. I really do.

I know it doesn’t sound like I do, but just like I can’t make myself like sweet potatoes—even though I know how good they are for me—I can’t like JavaScript.sweetpotatoe thumb Why JavaScript Is Doomed

I’ve tried many things. I’ve put some butter and brown sugar on a freshly baked sweet potato. I’ve doused it with hot sauce. I’ve even pretended it was a regular potato and dressed it up like one. But, the fact remains, I just don’t like sweet potatoes. It’s something in their very nature that I despise.

I’ve tried the same thing with JavaScript. I’ve added libraries that make it much sweeter, like JQuery and Backbone.js. I’ve used tools like CoffeeScript and TypeScript to try and pretend it was a more palatable language. But the fact remains, JavaScript has some things that are fundamentally wrong with it that no amount of covering up or pretending will fix.

If JavaScript wasn’t so ugly at heart, then a book called “JavaScript, The Good Parts,” probably wouldn’t be the #1 best-selling book on Amazon for JavaScript, the #3 best-selling book on web development, and the #4 best-selling book on software development, would it? (Go ahead and check it out for yourself if you don’t believe me.)

I don’t really need to tell you again what is wrong with JavaScript. If you use JavaScript, you know. If you don’t use JavaScript, just search for “why JavaScript sucks” on Google and you’ll get plenty of answers.

The point is, unless we are going to be completely disillusioned about it, we can probably all agree that JavaScript is not the greatest programming language that was ever created, and that it has some glaring weaknesses.

My point is not to bash JavaScript

Before you pitchfork me, I want to clear a few things up.

I don’t hate JavaScript.

I don’t suggest you shun JavaScript and go off with me to a floating island in international waters where we will build a new internet, one that isn’t infected by JavaScript.

I actually use JavaScript.
Not only do I use JavaScript, but I have to use JavaScript and so do you.

And if you are smart and want to have a good career in software development, you’ll take everything I am saying with a grain of salt, knowing that I could be completely wrong.

If you are smart, you won’t just dump JavaScript out the window, betting that it will fail, because it might not. It might grow to become the one universal language that replaces all other programming languages. JSON sempiternus!

But, on the other hand, if you are smart, you won’t put all your eggs in the JavaScript basket either. Even though the world seems bright and cheery for JavaScript developers today, it also seemed equally bright and cheery for Blackberry devs not too long ago. And look how that turned out.

And if you are solely a JavaScript developer or you really like JavaScript, I sincerely don’t mean to offend you, but I offer this piece of advice: You are not the technology you happen to be using.

Trust me, if you’re a good developer, you’ll still be a good developer even if JavaScript goes away.

What is actually awesome about JavaScript has nothing to do with JavaScript

No one gets up in the morning and says, I want to have bamboo shoots shoved under my fingernails. (Ok, well maybe some people do, but those guys are still writing object-oriented Perl.)

Yet, at the same time so many developers get up in the morning, fire up their IDE—or excuse me, lightweight text editor which has 50 plugins installed to give the capabilities of an IDE, but is not an IDE—and write JavaScript code. Why do they do it, unless they think JavaScript really is awesome?

It’s because all the stuff around JavaScript and built with JavaScript and on top of JavaScript is actually pretty awesome.

As much as I loathe JavaScript itself, frameworks like JQuery, Durandel, Backbone, Angular, Knockout and more are pretty darn cool.

Not only that, but JavaScript is everywhere!

Every browser is a JavaScript interpreter. Every notebook, PC, tablet, and smartphone can run JavaScript.

There are even cool server technologies, like Node.js that are built with JavaScript.

JavaScript runs in the browser, it has plenty of hooks in it for manipulating the DOM, and it has tons of cool libraries that give you the power to do awesome things, what’s not to love?

This is the part where I tell you what is not to love

holding hands thumb Why JavaScript Is Doomed

What’s not to love, is that all of that stuff has nothing to do with JavaScript itself.

Take JavaScript away and replace it with another programming language and you don’t really miss anything.

Ever seen a movie star without her makeup? Makes you realize that any halfway decent looking woman could be a movie star, with the proper styling.

The same goes for JavaScript. It is a language that has been dressed up to look like something it is not. What we all love about JavaScript is not the language itself, but all that makeup that has been caked on, a little bit of mysterious seduction it infers, and the stylish clothes it wears.

But, what is starting to happen already, and what I believe will continue to happen, is that people will start to get sick of that caked-on makeup look and high maintenance personality of JavaScript.

All those frameworks were really useful at first, but they are becoming such a huge mental burden. Are you worried about what JavaScript framework you need to master and keeping up with what is the hot one to use on any given day? I am.

You can only build so much on top of something else, before you have to wipe the slate clean and start over.

I don’t know when this will happen with JavaScript, but I am pretty sure it will happen.

It is very likely that a language like Dart, that can do everything JavaScript can do and more, will likely someday dethrone our web development king.

JSON sempiternus!

By the way, check out my new experiment on YouTube, going to release a short video each week.  Let me know what you think.

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