Thursday, February 21, 2008

Heavy weight Javascript client applications vs. lighter weight AJAX

I experimented with Mjt last year: Mjt is a client side template system: Javascript is used to merge data from JSON web service calls with templates to generate HTML - all in the browser (except for data fetched from a server). Mjt looks solid and has been fairy widely used; an alternative client side framework is Sun's experimental (not for production use!) Lively Kernel project. If you have not played with Lively Kernal, give it at least a one minute try - it uses the Morphic GUI framework, so if you have used Squeak, it will seem familiar.

The big problem, as I see it, of client side Javascript frameworks is issues of maintainability. I have worked with Javascript heavy web applications that other people originally wrote and they are definitely much more difficult to jump into, understand, and modify compared for example to AJAX heavy Rails applications or GWT web applications.

That said, there is something tidy about the idea of writing web applications in two intertwined but separate tasks:
  • Writing JSON web services and separately unit testing them
  • Interactively developing the client side with a framework like Mjt
I like to recognize technologies as early as possible that I might use in the future. Although I don't (yet) feel really comfortable working with frameworks like Mjt my gut feeling is that this is the future because it makes it easier to work with multiple languages and platforms for implementing web services and makes it easier to mix up data from multiple sources.

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