JavaScript. Interaction in the Front, Data in the Back

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Previously in the web development journey, we looked ‘under the hood’ of browsers with HTML and CSS. But what happens when you scroll, click, or interact with any part of a web page? Working alongside HTML and CSS, JavaScript brings a web page to life. Let’s take a closer look.

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JavaScript

JavaScript was built in 10 days in 1995 by Brendan Eich, who worked for Netscape, now more popularly known as Mozilla. At that time, Eich and fellow developers could not have foreseen the longevity and the role that JavaScript would later play in the entire world of web development.

Initially, JavaScript was created for the client side, or front-end, meaning it only lived in the browser. Today, JavaScript can connect to both the client side and server side—the back-end—allowing developers to work with one language for both front-end and back-end.

Java is not JavaScript

You hear it all the time, people say ‘Java’ when they mean ‘JavaScript’. Think of it this way, Java is to JavaScript as car is to carpet. Although they sound similar in name, they are completely different in nature. Java is a programming language for server-side code, while JavaScript is a totally different programming language that can be used both for server-side code and client-side code (see Java vs. JavaScript).

Fitting in the Full Stack

The Galvanize Web Development Immersive program wouldn’t exist without JavaScript. “JavaScript sets the foundation for the entire curriculum,” said Zach Klabunde, Galvanize Web Development instructor. “It sets students up for success for the remainder of the program and in their careers.” 

JavaScript is introduced early in the program, together with HTML and CSS—combined, the three are commonly referred to as the ‘front-end’. Adding JavaScript to HTML allows developers to add special effects to a web page, create interactive games, and enable users to interact with a picture slideshow, scroll down the page and load more content that wasn’t present before, and so much more—all without having to refresh the page.

As students are introduced to back-end tools like Mongo, PostgreSQL, and Knex, they are introduced to Node. Node is a platform that developers use to write JavaScript code in a non-browser setting. In other words, Node frees JavaScript from the front-end and connects it to a database, allowing information stored in the back-end to travel to the front-end faster.

“Teaching JavaScript as a language gets students under the hood and gives them a much better fundamental education on how the front-end and back-end work,” said Martha Berner, Galvanize Web Development instructor. “They are more equipped to take that model and fundamentals and apply them to any language, and any framework.”

Continued Learning

Want to start learning how to use JavaScript? Programs like Code Combat, Codecademy, and Egghead are great resources for an introduction to the interactive language.

Have a solid foundation in JavaScript? Check out the data visualization tool D3.js for building interactive charts and graphs, and Phaser for building HTML5 games.

Stay tuned, next we’ll summarize front-end web development, preparing us to move into the back-end of the full stack web development journey.

Contributions by Martha Berner, Galvanize Web Development Instructor, and Zach Klabunde, Galvanize Web Development Instructor. 

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