JavaScript Is Eating the World

Ok, not really, but JavaScript is the best place to start programming. I can hear the sound of the “true” programmers whipping their noses into the air as they read that last sentence, but hear me out.

JavaScript started as this quick hack to add a little bit of inteactivity that was needed for the browser, but now it’s deployed around the world on several billion devices. And it’s not a bad language. All languages have their quirks and those that do type conversion like JavaScript – 2 + “2” anybody? – have their share plus some but it’s a solid language to start. Why, you ask? Read on for my take.

Ease of deployment for testing

When you’re starting out, getting your code to run somewhere is the hardest part. That was the appeal of PHP. Write your code, copy it via FTP to your server, reload your page. The whole idea of starting a server is simple to us programmers who have done this for awhile, but not to someone starting out. That increased the cost of entry for tools like Rails and Django. You had to have a mental model for how you loaded your code. For PHP you wrote a file, you put a file on a server, you loaded that file through the server. You were done. With JavaScript it’s even easier.

  1. Save your file to your computer
  2. Refresh your browser
  3. There is no step three, you’re already looking at the result

Rise of JavaScript on the server

Server-side JavaScript wasn’t created by Node, but Node was the first thing to make it usable and fast. Taking the same skills you use to interact with events from a user and making those interact with events from a database or a caching layer means one less thing you have to learn. Yes, deployment of that application is a bit more involved than working with the browser, but you’re learning about deployment, not deployment and a new framework and a new language.

The other thing that’s often discounted by folks in the development community is how important native Windows support is. Yes, you can run Python or Ruby or PHP on Windows, but the thought of deployment is nearly laughable. The thing that makes Node a killer platform is that you can run and deploy it inside the enterprise without having to change all of your computers.

JavaScript is here to stay. Even if only a target for other languages like CoffeeScript or TypeScript. It’s a great language to start with since it’s situated right in the middle of the web development stack – that space between design and backend development. It’s easy to get started but challenging to truly master. And it runs on just about every computing device created in the past decade.