jQuery is Still Awesome

Ryan Nehring

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In the entire history of the internet, you’d be hard-pressed to name a single piece of tech definitively more important to the growth of the web than jQuery. Undoubtedly there are technologies that performed more difficult tasks or performed them more elegantly, but jQuery represents so much more than the simple sum of its functions.

For many programmers, jQuery is the place where they first began to “make stuff”; real stuff that did real things. Nascent developers, having recently begun to feel a measure of mastery over HTML and CSS found themselves wanting their beautiful sites to actually do something, and jQuery with its simple, clear and accessible interface gave them that power. It is quite simply the library that launched a million developer careers.

jQuery is the bridge so many of us traveled over into the mystical land of “Javascript”. The confidence that came from easy-to-implement DOM manipulation emboldened us to dig deeper into what Javascript was capable of. For many, the first real piece of legitimate coding in their portfolio was a jQuery plugin.

The importance of this impact can’t be overstated. Unimaginable amounts of brilliant code have been written by Devs who cut their teeth behind a $(function(){}) call. I humbly submit that there would be no React, no Angular, and no Vue today had jQuery not existed.

But here’s the kicker: jQuery is still awesome. It still does a simple job amazingly well and is still a great way for new developers to begin to understand the DOM and Javascripts’ place in the rendering cycle. In fact, a dirty little secret of modern Javascript development is that a lot of developers are still including jQuery in their projects because its $.ajax function is so well understood and implemented. Check the code, you’ll see that I’m right.

But I Read That You Don’t Need jQuery Anymore!

Despite all of my fawning, it’s true; modern Vanilla JS and Web APIs offer all of the capabilities of jQuery. The maturation of modern Javascript has led many developers to proclaim the death of jQuery, usually behind the justification that you can save yourself the load time and file size by doing without it. All of these things are true, but are the benefits worth it?

The minified version of jQuery clocks in at a svelte 28kb. That’s roughly half a Facebook profile picture. But it gets better: Include it from the jQuery or Google CDN and in the vast majority of cases your users will load a version they already have cached, making its inclusion nearly unquantifiable. Optimization is great, but so is ease of use and the ability to get a project done and done quickly.

But Vanilla Javascript is the Right Way to Do It Now!

Sure, in a purely objective and academic sense it is. In fact, the argument that jQuery users need to learn “real” Javascript is absolutely fair, but do they have to learn it right now? Aren’t we kind of pulling the ladder up behind us by insisting all development roads must lead through Vanilla JS?

jQuery still has a place in the web development world precisely because it can work as a shortcut. It allows newer devs to get a couple wins under their belt, build their confidence, heck, even earn some money by making things that actually work!

Development is a constantly imperfect process. Every day we all, as a community, work to discover better and more elegant ways to achieve results. When necessary, we invent entirely new (and also imperfect) technologies to do something better. Recognizing jQuery is also imperfect should not relegate it to the dust bin of web tech. The continued existence and usage of jQuery in no way impedes any developer’s ability to craft perfect functional Javascript that dances atop a Virtual DOM. Both of these things can exist happily simultaneously.

So… You’re Saying jQuery is Still Ok?

Absolutely. If you need it, consider this your permission to still use jQuery, and do so proudly. What John Resig and team achieved with the creation of jQuery is largely unparalleled. They created a library that did its job incredibly well at a time when those jobs were immensely difficult to do, but more importantly, it inspired an entire generation of coders to take that scary step up to the next level of development. It gave people the tools to create useful and dynamic websites without the steeper learning curve of core Javascript. It excited, and still excites the imagination of developers worldwide. That excitement is so exceptionally valuable and an often overlooked quality when we consider what goes into building the tools we use every day.

Not every project needs jQuery. You can rightfully argue that no project, in a technical sense, needs jQuery at all anymore, but I’d argue that developers still do, and in a larger sense the developer community does as well. jQuery is still awesome, and even if I use it less now than I used too, I’m still glad it’s out there solving problems, making coding easier, and inspiring new developers to do things they didn’t think they could.

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