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jQuery – What, Where, How?

Six years after its inception, jQuery continues to grow in popularity, but what exactly is it, what features does it offer for developers, and how do web developers utilize them? Taken from the official website, “jQuery is a fast and concise JavaScript library that simplifies HTML document traversing, event handling, animating, and Ajax interactions for rapid web development.”Its sole purpose is to improve JavaScript development and creation by speeding up the whole process.

Effectively, jQuery is Open Source software that makes document navigation much easier so that developers can create, select and handle objects much easier. With 55% of the top most visited websites being powered by jQuery2, it has become extremely popular within a limited timeframe. The top industries that use it are business, shopping, and technology, all of which are attracted to its ability to provide cost-efficient and high quality results.

jQuery Project was developed by the jQuery foundation with John Resig being the founder and lead developer. The ownership of the project was divided between him and Paul Bakaus, who developed the user interface. Currently, the organization is part of the Software Freedom Conservancy so that the software remains Open Source and free indefinitely, and that no single person will retain control of the copyright and of the project’s assets.

jQuery features a powerful CSS selector engine as a Document Object Model (DOM) selector called “Sizzle.”3 It can further traverse and modify DOMs, and use CSS selectors with name and node elements to build selectors. The software offers extensibility through plug-ins, events, animations and Ajax It has multi-browser support and compatibility methods for all modern browsers. It further has cross-browser support.

The aim of jQuery is to accomplish better results with less effort and make Java scripting on websites much easier. It combines multiples lines of code for more complicated functions like HTML event methods, and effects and animations, into a single function that is one line in length. Naturally, it requires prior knowledge of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, so complete beginners in programming cannot effectively use it.

jQuery is currently the faster growing web technology and has achieved greater penetration when compared to Flash (23%) and Silverlight (0.3%)3. Although there are other JavaScript libraries, these offer different functionality, and not always what webmasters need. Although a lot of websites use a number of JavaScript libraries, this does not have an impact on jQuery’s popularity. In fact 49% of sites that use MooTools or Prototype utilize jQuery as well3. Its highest usage rate is with educational websites (71.5%), as well as in Macedonia, Ireland and Australia. If you are dealing with one of these countries, it pays to have your eyes open for jQuery changes.

Despite jQuery’s apparent success, users of the software are hesitant to use the community’s content delivery network. In fact, 73% of them use no CDN at all3, while most of the others utilize Google Libraries API.

The key to jQuery’s success is its architecture, which gives developers complete flexibility and enables them to create plug-ins for further functionality. These can be dynamic lists, web-service help, events, modal windows, and even a Commodore 64 emulator. These plug-ins can easily be downloaded from the sub-domain on the Project website.

With a current version 1.8.2, every web developer enthusiast can download the Open Source software from the home page, and they can even choose whether they want a 32KB Gzipped production package, or the uncompressed code in 252 KB. The plug-ins are also easily accessible and any developer can submit bugs or order issues, and enjoy the responsive and supportive environment of the project forum.

References:

  1. http://jquery.com/
  2. http://trends.builtwith.com/javascript/JQuery http://blog.jquery.com/2009/01/14/jquery-13-and-the-jquery-foundation/
  3. http://w3techs.com/blog/entry/jquery_now_runs_on_every_second_website

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