The jQuery Juggernaut

Last night I felt very lucky to have a seat in the biggest meeting room Microsoft offers in its San Francisco office. The occasion was a remarkably well-attended (over 150 participants) event of five different Bay Area Meetup groups. Our common ground was a discussion of jQuery.

Image © the jQuery Project
New Wave JavaScript

Why jQuery has so many infatuated practitioners:

  1. It’s designed to help front-end developers do the things we really need to do. As Yehuda Katz remarked, “We write software for humans.” By re-purposing CSS syntax for JavaScript tasks, John Resig returned browser-side scripting to front-end developers. The framework, and most jQuery documentation, are refreshingly oriented to using jQuery for those humdrum DOM manipulations we’re assigned.

    Five minutes with the average JavaScript tutorial will give you, maybe, some prose to recite about objects, data types, and the prototype method. Fifteen minutes–perhaps some acquaintance with the built-in Math object, rarely used in your daily work as a front-end dev. In contrast, five minutes’ reading of an introductory jQuery tutorial will get you to the point of answering that deathless question: how can I apply an onclick highlight color to every other table row?

  2. It’s (mostly) backwards compatible. Since you’re using the hosted version of jQuery from either Google or Microsoft (you are, aren’t you?), you might be anxious that an upgrade to the latest jQuery release will break your carefully wrought scripts of yore. Yet the framework is designed so that new functionality won’t meddle too much with older. Your zesty accordion menus from 2007 will thrill your site visitors for years to come.
  3. It will always be open source. The jQuery project is a member of the Software Freedom Conservancy. It cannot be purchased by any corporation and then sequestered into a proprietary format. You will never have to pay to use .mouseleave() or .fadeIn().
  4. It has an enthusiastic community of plug-in developers. Like as not, you could develop an entire Web project without writing a single line of your own JavaScript. In addition to the plugins hosted on, there are countless scripts and gists on GitHub, and who knows how many others stored on people’s blogs.

    It’s not that I advocate avoiding writing your own scripts, but if you’re solving a tediously common problem and you have the typical ridiculous project deadline, you can pull in someone else’s lightbox, autocomplete, or carousel, and move on to the more interesting work you have to do.

  5. Our feedback matters. An amusing test of this happened a couple of years ago, when unveiled a new branding effort. Gone was the tagline “Write less, do more,” replaced by “Be a Javascript Rock Star.” Manga-style graphics supplanted gradients and color blocks.

    Reactions tended to the furious, and the jQuery team quickly removed the elements generating so many complaints.

Why aren’t you using jQuery?