Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Web and Javascript

Consider how much the internet has evolved in the past few years. If you still recall how most web pages looked ten years ago - with that old fashioned "static HTML" look - then you appreciate current Web 2.0 look even more.

And the basis for most of it is javascript...

Just look at Google Maps. You can drag a map around, zoom in/ou using your mouse clickwheel, even right click on it to bring up more options. It behaves almost like a traditional program running on your desktop.

Sure, it's not the only one: Microsoft's own Live Maps and Yahoo Maps offer similar features.

But the issue remains: what do you value more - content or usability?

When you visit Google Maps I'm pretty sure you're interested in checking out a map. Though important, I think it's safe to assume ease of use is secondary.

Now, let's imagine a case where someone, concerned with its own security, decides to disable javascript so it doesn't fall prey to "click-jacking" attempts.
He then tries to navigate to Live Maps just to find he can't even see a map.
Well, tough luck... he goes to Yahoo Maps... but again he'll face a blank page.

We finally tries Google Maps... and behold! There you can still check a map!

Sure, it's a very basic version of what you're used to. No fancy drag'n'drop, no dynamic page updates... but it still works.

So: how much should you depend on javascript to access valuable information?

Is it right to completely shut out people from accessing the information they need?

One school of thought says you should always present "content", and only then enhance it if you happen to have a more capable browser (with javascript, etc.)

Problem is, lots of people seem to be doing the exact opposite: developping for a fully fledged browser, assuming everyone has javascript enabled; and if you don't... tough luck! You get to see... nothing.

Keep in mind that with more internet-enabled devices popping up each day, this issue becomes even more important. Who's to say you're not trying to access those pages from a cell-phone, a internet-TV, or any other gadget like a internet-browsing watch from Japan?
Just because you're using a limited browser should you be locked out of the information you're looking for?

It's not javascript's fault - it is a fundamental part of the Internet to-be - it's just a matter of how it should be used.

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