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Nick Plante

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

jQueryConf 2008 Highlights

September 27, 2008

jQuery has come a long way since its debut in 2006, and is now, according to some recent surveys, the JavaScript library favored by the majority of web designers and developers. Just as the library itself has doubled its size and reach over the last 12 months, so too has jQueryConf grown tremendously.

Last year I attended the somewhat informally organized jQueryCamp that piggybacked the Ajax Experience conference in Boston, and had a great time. This year, the 'camp' name was discarded for a proper 'conf' title, and seats for it filled up in a matter of days. Fortunately I registered early this time around!

With a couple exciting announcements and two concurrent tracks, there were plenty of talks and demonstrations for attendees of all skill levels. Some personal hightlights follow...

* Probably the single biggest announcement was that Microsoft is adding jQuery to their official tool chain and distributing it with future versions of Visual Studio. Microsoft will also be building new components/widgets on top of the jQuery foundation (and presumably contributing much of this work back for the greater good!)

* Nokia will also be using jQuery to develop new applications to run on mobile handsets. It will be integrated into their web runtime (a stripped down browser based on WebKit) and distributed on all new Nokia phones. For more information, see the link above.

* The focus of jQuery 1.3 will be... performance! The new selector engine is 2-3x faster than the current one, and DOM manipulations should be up to 10x faster. Another goal is to become the first major lib that doesn't rely on browser (user agent) sniffing. Instead the team is experimenting with "inject and check" strategies.

* In developer and designer surveys that were cited, jQuery is the single most popular used JavaScript library, seeing more use than Prototype, Dojo, and MooTools. jQuery is also the most popular JavaScript library among Ruby developers, besting the baked-in Prototype library, even! There are over 11,000 current subscribers to the jquery-en mailing list

* In one of the early sessions jQuery  creator John Resig gave a talk about optimizing jQuery's core. One of the most interesting parts of this talk was discussion of his new "Sizzle" selector engine, which will replace the current selector engine in an upcoming release. Sizzle is not jQuery-specific and may also be leveraged by other JavaScript libraries.

* John also pointed out a performance profiling plugin that he released awhile back that allows developers to see exactly where any bottlenecks might be. Good stuff!

* Yehuda Katz, author of jQuery in Action (Manning), talked about techniques for keeping jQuery code modular. He covered a number of useful patterns and idoms that can help keep cruft from sneaking in on your projects.

* Paul Bakaus, lead of the jQuery UI project, demonstrated the many components provided by the UI plugin and also talked about some of the features that make them unique (some neat aspects of drag-drop, sortables, etc). The discussion included great demos like a pure JavaScript winamp UI clone, complete with "snapping", and cool new transformations in WebKit. Paul also talked about how to create your own extensions to jQuery UI.

* Scott Jehl of Filament Group and WriteMaps talked about designing reusable jQuery components. He demonstrated some gorgeous jQuery UI components he'd built that degraded gracefully, and also talked about his work developing the WriteMaps sitemap creator interface. His company, Filament Group, is also responsible for the infamous jQuery themeroller, which can be used to easily design custom themes for jQuery UI components that can be dropped into your own applications quickly and easily. Scott was also responsible for the recent jQuery website facelift and joked about the "rockstar incident".

* Mike Alsup talked about developing jQuery plugins. Mike's talk was one of my favorites of the conference; very clear and concise. I learned a number of good tricks that I can personally use to clean up my own jQuery plugin work!

Overall, a great mini-conference and well worth the tiny price tag of admission (a mere $50!). My only regret is that testing of jQuery/JavaScript code wasn't a focus today. I would have loved to see a session on jQuery's own qunit test runner facility and more discussion of JavaScript testing best practices. Maybe next time!

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