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It’s 2020: Is Javascript Dead?

Whether or not JavaScript is dead has no clear, forward answer.

The world of web development is fast changing to say the least, with new languages and protocols seeming to pop up every couple of minutes.

Remember when HTML Flash was a thing?

But a strange debate we’ve been hearing about is whether or not JavaScript is “dead”- with some developers claiming Java has been six feet under for years and others claiming it’s still a highly valuable programming language.

And the answer? Well, there isn’t one. It’s a continuing battle of “yes” and “no” from opposing sides.

While we don’t want to say it’s the east side, west side battle of the web development world….

It kind of is. So, is JavaScript dead?

Let’s hash it out.

First Off, What Is JavaScript?

Put simply, JavaScript is a scripting/programming language that lets developers build complex features on a website.

If you visit a site and the page does more than stand still and present stagnant information for you to look at, you can almost guarantee that Javascript was used when developing that website. JavaScript is the function behind content updates, 3D graphics, scrolling videos and maps.

Basically, if web technologies were a cake, JavaScript would be the third layer- typically complementing HTML & CSS.

The web layer cake, for reference:

  1. HTML: this is the language that is used to form the basic structure of a site, and provide meaning to the content on our site. Example: paragraphs, headings and data tables or simply embedding images and videos in a page.
  2. CSS: the language of style. CSS is the font styles, the colors, backgrounds- basically the design- of the framework we have set in place with CSS.
  3. JavaScript: the bells and the whistles of our websites content. Any dynamic content, or anything that moves, can usually be attributed to JavaScript.

Alternatives To JavaScript

The whole idea that JavaScript has died came from the emergence of similar alternatives. While Java is the rea OG of “fancy web stuff”, this constantly evolving industry has of course produced alternatives that web developers have put under their belt.

Much less known of course, these programming languages have found their way into many great websites across the globe:

  • Dart
  • TypeScript
  • Kaffiene
  • Elm
  • CoffeeScript

The kicker, though? All these have to be transpiled through JavaScript before becoming deployed anyway.

So, is there an alternative to JavaScript? The best answer is- no, but kind of.

But Wait….Is JavaScript Dying Anyway?

Sigh.

There is no straight forward answer to that.

Statistically, no- JavaScript is not only alive and well, but prospering. 95% of websites worldwide utilize JavaScript, and JS is considered a standard language in the world of programming.

Most web development positions won’t even consider your application if you do not speak JS.
JavaScript develops web content that everybody can use.

If you piled all the source code written in the last decade into piles, JavaScript would be the biggest pile.

Which may make you wonder where the idea that JavaScript is dead came from.

Admittedly, we are kind of Reddit addicts here at RAD- we often engage in communications with other developers about software, programming etc. So, it’s not a surprise that the best answer have found came from Reddit “zanfar”:

Nobody says “X is dead” when X is actually dead. The statement usually means something like “I found this really cool other thing that I think is better than X” or “I’ve been an internet/journalism troll for years and recently found some anecdotal evidence that finally supports my dubious claims.”

Learning a language–any language–is valuable. Yes, even Basic.

Even if JS somehow became the absolutely worst thing ever tomorrow, it would still be around and used for quite a while as nothing else is really supported as widely as JS–could be over a decade based on realistic browser upgrade cycles.

That’s not to say that there are components of JavaScript that could be improved, or components of JaaScript that aren’t open for competitors:

  • Client-side Security

    Since the JavaScript code is viewable to the user, others may use it for malicious purposes. These practices may include using the source code without authentication. Also, it is very easy to place some code into the site that compromises the security of data over the website.

  • Browser Support

    The browser interprets JavaScript differently in different browsers. Thus, the code must be run on various platforms before publishing. The older browsers don’t support some new functions and we need to check them as well.

  • Rendering Stopped

    A single code error can stop the rendering of the entire JavaScript code on the website. To the user, it looks as if JavaScript was not present. However, the browsers are extremely tolerant of these errors.

And yes, JavaScript can be ultra ultra slow.

On the whole, JavaScript is a widely accepted and used programming language that doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.

JavaScript isn’t dead, but it doesn’t mean that competitors aren’t slowly trying to take it’s place. It does seem that once there is a new entrance into the market- even if they’re not really comparable- people start to claim that components start to die off.

In this case, we can’t find evidence to support JavaScript doing anything other than remaining strong in a very digital world.

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