[whatwg] Why not JavaScript?

Peter-Paul Koch gassinaumasis at hotmail.com
Wed Jun 9 15:33:16 PDT 2004

JavaScript turns up regularly in this discussion, so I though I'd state a 
few obvious points and ask a few questions that nobody else seems to have 
asked as yet.

First of all, when I read the (very interesting) position paper, it struck 
me that every described feature can be implemented in JavaScript *right 
now*, maybe except for the server sent events and the clipboard api (but 
even in those cases it might be possible).

Therefore I wondered why we'd have to invent a wholly new language to do 
what can already be done, especially when we'd have to wait about three to 
five years before browsers start to support it, and with the extreme 
likelihood that IE won't support it anyway.

As far as I'm concerned we have the choice of using JavaScript right now, or 
waiting for (probably buggy and incompatible) browser implementations of as 
yet unknown techniques in the distant future.

Of course using JavaScript has a downside, too. My current personal 
guesstimate is that about 2 to 3 % of the Web users have JavaScript 
disabled, voluntarily or by Sysadmin Decree. It may be somewhat more or 
less, but that's not the point. The point is that JavaScript is not 100% 

Therefore the question becomes how important JavaScript's imprecise 
reliability is. This depends on the *purpose* of the Web application, and I 
haven't yet seen a single mention of this purpose, neither in the position 
paper nor on this mailing list.

I'm confused by the paper's mention of eBay and Amazon as examples of web 
applications. To me, these are not applications but web sites, and they can 
function without JavaScript (I'm not saying they do, I'm just saying they 
can). The core tasks of these sites (bidding on items and buying books) 
don't require richer widget sets, window-based state management, predefined 
HTML editors or server-sent events.

Any web application that enhances these sites is therefore not critical but 
a nice extra. Hence the use of JavaScript to program them is quite allowed. 
Noscript browsers can still perform the core tasks.

HTML editors and such are very valuable for content management systems and 
such, but these applications run in a controlled environment where it is 
permissible to require a JavaScript enabled browser. So here, too, the use 
of JavaScript is quite allowed.

Can someone please give an example of an application where richer widget 
sets, window-based state management, predefined HTML editors or server-sent 
events are *absolutely required*, an application that, when created in 
JavaScript, *cannot* be designed to degrade gracefully in noscript browsers?

I feel that any web application must have a strong server side component, to 
store the data and to allow  people to add, change or delete data. These 
tasks can be performed in the absence of a rich web application and/or 
JavaScript, simply by entering the data in a form and clicking "Submit".

In short, I don't see any reason *not* to use JavaScript to create a richer 
client environment. Can somebody please explain why we need a new language?

ppk, freelance web developer
Interaction, copywriting, JavaScript, integration
Column "Keep it Simple": http://www.digital-web.com/types/keep_it_simple/

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