The Advantages and Disadvantages of Javascript | Expedition

A Programmer’s Guide to the Pros and Cons of Javascript

Javascript is considered one of the most flexible and ubiquitous languages in the world. It’s present on almost every web page on the Internet. And even beyond web development, Javascript has found its way to mobile apps, server-side applications, and even desktop software.

Indeed, it’s a common belief among programmers that Javascript can do anything.

But can it?

This article will discuss the advantages of Javascript, as well as its disadvantages and limitations. More importantly, we’ll reveal projects where Javascript is essential and where it’s a liability.

But first, let’s start with the basics.

What is Javascript (JS)?

Javascript is a high-level, interpreted scripting language mostly used in web development. It is one of the most popular and widely used programming languages today. At the time of this writing, it’s ranked #7 in the TIOBE Index.

Netscape first developed javascript as a way to add interactivity into otherwise static web pages. The name was used because its syntax was similar to Java. Plus, Java was the “hot” language at the time.

As one of the core web development technologies alongside HTML and CSS, the original purpose of Javascript was to add dynamic features to a website. It does this by accessing and manipulating the HTML elements of a webpage’s Document Object Model (DOM).

For example, with Javascript, you can check the text fields to ensure it’s error-free before submission. It can also play media files, create games, and animate objects (although newer technologies are better suited for that). One of the more common uses of Javascript is to load or hide page sections of the page dynamically without reloading the entire page.

Javascript is a scripting language, which means it’s executed only at run time. So, unlike languages like Java or C, there’s no need to pre-compile it into an executable program. Instead, Javascript code is inserted into the HTML file itself and interpreted by the browser once you load the page.

Indeed, Javascript is the only language that can be understood natively by all web browsers. That’s because it uses the ECMAScript standard, which all browsers support.

So, how is Javascript used? Traditionally, it was mostly used for web page interactivity. But that has now changed with the introduction of Node.js and React Native. These extend the capability of Javascript into server-side, mobile apps, and even standalone applications.

As we mentioned, Javascript is one of the most ubiquitous languages used by over 97% of all websites. Almost every major website you use, from Gmail to Facebook, all use Javascript in one form or another.

One of the key features of Javascript is that it’s dynamically typed. This means you don’t need to define the type of variable explicitly; instead, it’s inferred from how that variable is used.

For instance, when a “+” operator is applied to an integer, it adds those numbers together. But when used on a string, it joins them instead. This can make programming easier and lead to shorter code. However, it can also introduce unexpected behaviors if not used properly.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s delve into the advantages and disadvantages of Javascript.

Advantages of Javascript

One of the biggest and most quoted advantages of Javascript is that it’s easy to learn. And that’s true.

Javascript’s syntax is relatively easy to learn. Although it’s not as intuitive as Python, it’s not as complex as C++. You also don’t need to install any software compiler or integrated development environment (IDE) to code in Javascript (although you could). Instead, all you need is your web browser and a notepad app.

The just-in-time execution of Javascript is also easy for beginners. Since you don’t need to pre-compile Javascript, you can instantly see code changes by refreshing the web page.

You can even take advantage of the visibility of Javascript code by studying popular websites. By analyzing how the Javascript code works, you can reverse engineer and learn from it (although, as you can imagine, this can present a con as well).

Thus, from a development perspective, it’s easy to transition your developers to Javascript even if they’re not familiar with it. There’s also no shortage of frameworks and libraries to help you build functionalities faster.

Plus, you can extend your team’s Javascript knowledge to develop server-side software by utilizing Node.js or Angular.js, or React Native for cross-platform mobile apps. Javascript also integrates well with other languages and technologies.

One of the biggest benefits of Javascript is its popularity, meaning it has a huge community behind it. As a result, there’s no shortage of help and support if you encounter any programming roadblocks. In addition, experts often share coding best practices and algorithms that you can use on your project.

Javascript also makes responsive web design possible. By manipulating the web page, you can resize elements or load different versions dynamically based on the end user’s device. This can improve the browsing experience and even raise your search engine rankings.

Using Javascript also helps you create rich interactive interfaces with minimal overload. Since Javascript code is executed on the client-side, it can save precious bandwidth and prevent network/server congestion. This will improve loading times and lower latency. Javascript is also asynchronous, which means it can retrieve/send data to the server without interrupting the user.

Disadvantages of Javascript

One of the limitations of Javascript is that it’s ill-suited for larger applications. The HTML and Javascript code can get bloated and unreadable quickly with complex web pages. Overdoing Javascript can also lead to performance issues.

Javascript lacks many features of more general-purpose languages that make it more suitable for larger teams. These include robust object-oriented capabilities and prototyping. Developing a microservices-based application is near impossible since it doesn’t support interfaces – a requirement for APIs.

Dynamic typing is also often discussed when talking about Javascript pros and cons. That’s because it can be a benefit or a hindrance, depending on how you use it. For one, it can be very convenient. However, the danger lies when it’s used improperly.

For instance, Javascript will not stop you when you pass a Boolean variable to a function that requires an integer. This, of course, will introduce unpredictable results. And because it will not be flagged as an error, it will be much more challenging to debug that error. This is compounded by the fact that Javascript’s debugging tools are not as robust as that of languages like Java or C++.

But the biggest concern with Javascript is security. As you know, Javascript source code is always visible to the end-user. This makes it hard to “hide” proprietary algorithms from competitors. More alarmingly, it can also reveal security vulnerabilities to hackers and fraudsters. That’s why many end users choose to disable Javascript altogether, which is another problem for websites that rely on it to work.

We mentioned how Javascript is interoperable across browsers and operating systems. But the problem is that some platforms might interpret certain Javascript code differently than others. This can complicate cross-browser web development. At the very least, you’ll need to test across multiple browsers, which can be time-consuming.

Is Javascript Good for My Project?

The truth is: it depends. There’s no “one size fits all” programming language, and every project will differ in terms of which language is a better fit. Javascript is no different.

If you’re working on a web app project, Javascript can be a key part of your toolset. There’s simply no replacement for the speed and interactivity that Javascript brings to front-end web development. What’s more, if you’re designing a mobile responsive site, Javascript is a requirement.

Even if you plan to use other technologies on the back-end, Javascript can be a good contender. After all, if you’re using it on the front end, why not the back end too? Indeed, it’s possible to build whole web projects with Javascript as the core technology.

But suppose you’re working on more advanced projects that require number-crunching or resource-intensive operations. In that case, Javascript might not be a good fit. Examples of these include data science and artificial intelligence. Here, more computationally efficient languages like Python are better suited.

If you want to build a browser game, you should also try to steer away from Javascript. True, Javascript does have some libraries for graphics and game logic. But, at most, it will only be for the simplest of games. For anything more complex and flashy, you’re better off with other technologies.

Based on these guidelines, it might seem straightforward to know when Javascript is appropriate. But in practice, it’s never that simple. It takes experience to know which tool is best suited for the job.

At Expedition Co., we take the time to get to know our clients’ projects. We’re not just “guns for hire” but true collaborators that help bring visions to life. We’re also full-stack developers. We just don’t advise you on the right tools to use – we also know how to use them ourselves.

Have a web project coming up? To learn more about how our web development services can elevate your next project, schedule a consultation and let’s talk.