Posted: March 17, 2011 in Uncategorized

Why jQuery?
It might seem a bit silly to speak about the merits of jQuery within this cookbook,
especially since you’re reading this cookbook and are likely already aware of the merits.
So, while I might be preaching to the choir here, we’re going to take a quick look at
why a developer might choose to use jQuery. My point in doing this is to foster your
basic knowledge of jQuery by first explaining the “why” before we look at the “how.”
In building a case for jQuery, I’m not going to compare jQuery to its competitors in
order to elevate jQuery’s significance. That’s because I just don’t believe that there
really is a direct competitor. Also, I believe the only library available today that meets
the needs of both designer types and programmer types is jQuery. In this context,
jQuery is in a class of its own.
Of the notorious JavaScript libraries and frameworks in the wild, I truly believe each
has its own niche and value. A broad comparison is silly, but it’s nevertheless attempted
• Its community support is actually fairly useful, including several mailing lists, IRC
channels, and a freakishly insane amount of tutorials, articles, and blog posts from
the jQuery community.
• It’s openly developed, which means anyone can contribute bug fixes, enhancements,
and development help.
• Its development is steady and consistent, which is to say the development team is
not afraid of releasing updates.
• Its adoption by large organizations has and will continue to breed longevity and
stability (e.g., Microsoft, Dell, Bank of America, Digg, CBS, Netflix).
• It’s incorporating specifications from the W3C before the browsers do. As an example,
jQuery supports a good majority of the CSS3 selectors.
• It’s currently tested and optimized for development on modern browsers
(Chrome 1, Chrome Nightly, IE 6, IE 7, IE 8, Opera 9.6, Safari 3.2, WebKit Nightly,
Firefox 2, Firefox 3, Firefox Nightly).
• It’s downright powerful in the hands of designer types as well as programmers.
jQuery does not discriminate.
• Its elegance, methodologies, and philosophy of changing the way JavaScript is
written is becoming a standard in and of itself. Consider just how many other
solutions have borrowed the selector and chaining patterns.
• Its unexplainable by-product of feel-good programming is contagious and certainly
unavoidable; even the critics seem to fall in love with aspects of jQuery.
• Its documentation has many outlets (e.g., API browser, dashboard apps, cheat
sheets) including an offline API browser (AIR application).
• It’s purposely bent to facilitate unobtrusive JavaScript practices.
• It has remained a JavaScript library (as opposed to a framework) at heart while at
the same time providing a sister project for user interface widgets and application
development (jQuery UI).
• Its learning curve is approachable because it builds upon concepts that most developers
and designers already understand (e.g., CSS and HTML).
It is my opinion that the combination of the aforementioned jQuery points, and not
any single attribute on its own, sets it apart from all other solutions. The total jQuery
package is simply unmatched as a JavaScript tool.all the time. Heck, I am even guilty of it myself. However, after much thought on the
topic, I truly believe that all JavaScript libraries are good at something. They all have
value. What makes one more valuable than the other depends more upon who is using
it and how it’s being used than what it actually does. Besides, it has been my observation
that micro differences across JavaScript libraries are often trivial in consideration of the
broader goals of JavaScript development. So, without further philosophical ramblings,
here is a list of attributes that builds a case for why you should use jQuery:
• It’s open source, and the project is licensed under an MIT and a GNU General
Public License (GPL) license. It’s free, yo, in multiple ways!
• It’s small (18 KB minified) and gzipped (114 KB, uncompressed).
• It’s incredibly popular, which is to say it has a large community of users and a
healthy amount of contributors who participate as developers and evangelists.
• It normalizes the differences between web browsers so that you don’t have to.
• It’s intentionally a lightweight footprint with a simple yet clever plugin
• Its repository of plugins is vast and has seen steady growth since jQuery’s release.
• Its API is fully documented, including inline code examples, which in the world
of JavaScript libraries is a luxury. Heck, any documentation at all was a luxury for
• It’s friendly, which is to say it provides helpful ways to avoid conflicts with other
JavaScript libraries.

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