What's Old Is New Again: JavaScript Dominance Not Assured – thenewstack.io

Much like how a stopped watch is right twice a day, it seems that, in the world of technology, if you just stay around long enough, the methods you knew long ago become the way to do things once again. This week, an article by Klint Finley over at GitHub’s ReadME Project tells a tale of the old becoming new again, with an exploration of all of the backend languages that are coming to the frontend.
Since the early days of networked computing, Finley writes, technology has been a pendulum swing, back and forth between server-side and client-side processing, with the past decade dominated by client-side JavaScript. “But a new crop of tools is sending the pendulum swinging back towards the server,” he writes.
Now, for those of you who remember creating web pages with those old backend languages (PHP forums in the early aughts, anyone?), you might regard the idea of returning to them once again as heresy. And on this point, Finley certainly sides with you, as he recounts the “(not so) good old days of web development”, as he puts it. This is not an argument to return to the methods wherein backend languages need to recreate full web pages with every single update, as was the case with those PHP applications of yesteryear. Rather, this new crop consists of tools like Phoenix, a framework for the programming language Elixir, and a feature called LiveView, which renders UI elements on the backend before sending them to the browser. Finley also points to other tools that take a similar approach, such as Laravel Livewire and StimulusReflex.
While the title of the piece might suggest that JavaScript should move out of the way, Finley ends on more of a balanced note, writing that “Perhaps what we’re seeing is not so much a pendulum swing, but a state of equilibrium where computing happens on both client and server in equal measure depending on the needs of the user.”
This point is one we’ve seen increasingly lately in the world of frontend (or backend as frontend, as it were) development. For example, when we recently looked at htmx as an alternative to JavaScript single-page applications (SPAs), both htmx creator Carson Gross and Svelte framework creator Rich Harris ended on a similar note of the idea of “transitional apps,” wherein not one approach would be relied upon entirely.
Much of the discussion of the article, which reached the top of Hacker News, is not necessarily in disagreement with the assertions put forth, but rather in what was not mentioned.
All the goodness of the browser as a platform will be available in whatever language you want, likely in a way that smells a whole lot like react or Vue. It will take a minute to ramp up to speed. But it’s the future.
— Adam Jacob (@adamhjk) February 10, 2022

Both WebAssembly and htmx were among the top two approaches seen as missing from the landscape, with both seemingly offering alternatives to the recent domination of JavaScript and its ubiquitous frontend frameworks. But while we call out these two as the primary contentions listed, the comments on Hacker News are a laundry list of different languages and approaches that might suffice. Whatever the way, it surely seems that JavaScript’s potential world domination is anything but certain.
pic.twitter.com/sgNDWs7tuc
— htmx.org (@htmx_org) February 8, 2022

Every few years someone says “what if the internet were 3D!!! And websites were PLACES!!!” and then invents the worst internet experience possible
— Jules Glegg 🏳️‍⚧️ (@heyjulesfern) February 6, 2022

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