Javascript is the gateway drug

3 minutes to read

Javascript is the gateway drug. It's the one language that everyone seems to learn or dabble in no matter what stack they started on. It has become the great equalizer, offering access to all the platforms because javascript runs on all those platforms. Even targeting mobile, first came things like PhoneGap and Titanium, followed by new bridges like React Native and Nativescript. It is an exciting time to be a developer; you can learn Javascript and build anything.


Becoming the Gateway

Javascript started in the browser. As it has become more and more popular, it has expanded to include other platforms. You can now build Minecraft mods with Javascript. You can control drones with javascript. You can even write code that runs on the xBox now with javascript.

Javascript became the great equalizer because it was the only language you could count on running in the browser. Sure, you had options like Flash & Java, but they required add-ons to work in the browser. Javascript became the language to use when building out interactive client-side applications. You just cannot make something like Facebook or Twitter without having a reactive interface; it is what people expect if they are going to use a web or mobile app. Can you imagine Slack with refreshes happening every few seconds to reload the page? Javascript runs on client, server, and mobile platforms - making it the platform than many expected Java to be.

The story of a gateway

Not long ago, I met a designer who was struggling to understand Rails. After some frustration with Rails, he switched to Meteor - he was able to immediately get things running. He already understood JavaScript, so he used it to create sites with jQuery. He was able to leverage his current jQuery knowledge and dive way deep into Meteor to build out apps. After building a few apps with lead developers, this designer was able to take over and start running projects without help. Ultimately, he created an app with Meteor that analyzed Instagram to find influencers. That app got him into an accelerator and landed his first 100k in funding!

Mobile apps are the thing

I remember when the Apple app store first launched. No one knew or understood what a game changer it would be - I guess you could argue that Apple did! When you think about it, Apple redefined the word 'app' to be almost mobile exclusive in modern vocabulary. I'm not sure why I didn't take up Objective-C back then, I was far more interested in things like Ruby, Rails, and building web apps. I did slowly come to learn were things like jQuery, Backbone, Meteor.js, React, etc.

As my JS knowledge grew, so did the capabilities of what you can do with the language regarding targeting new platforms. I have now spent the last 18 months working on mobile apps for clients, built exclusively with Javascript. No more need to learn Java or Objective-C to build apps. I take notice when my bread and butter changes where it comes from. I always felt like the deep Cordova integration that Meteor added in 0.9 was the dark horse of the platform. Look at some of the top startup 'unicorns'. Uber, Snapchap, etc. Those startups all are completely app-based. Even Slack, which offers a web presence, pushes you to install both desktop and mobile apps to make the platform easier to consume.

The growth will continue

Think about it logically; smartphones are small, compact, and easy to carry. They come in at a lower price point than laptops and desktops. On top of all those positives, they also come with always-on connectivity. They are the perfect storm that will take over the world. There are countries now that don't have high amounts of laptops, desktops, and last mile connectivity. They don't need it; you can just hop on a smartphone or tablet and get everything you need - why buy a computer?

You don't have to believe me, just look at the top camera on Flickr, the iPhone. While it may someday get supplanted as the top picture taking device, it will only be rivaled by another Android smartphone like the Galaxy. People aren't rushing out to buy separate picture taking devices unless they want super high-quality images. Computers, both laptops, and desktops, will go the same way.

Now is the best time to jump in

There is no time like the present to jump in and start learning. You can find free courses on Javascript all over the place. There are tons of tutorials on youtube that show you how to get started with all the different javascript technologies. You can even attend the upcoming remote conference all about building mobile apps with javascript!

Don't let things like "Javascript Fatigue" scare you, jump in and start building something. I promise that whatever you make will come in handy later when you try to find a job or grab some funding for your idea.

Josh Owens

It all started with an Atari 800XL, but now Josh is a ruby and javascript developer with 10 years of professional experience. His current love is React.js, which he works with daily.