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The memoirs of a library

All good things must come to an end – Museum calling for jQuery?

Eirini-Eleni Papadopoulou
jquery
© Shutterstock / giorgiomtb  

jQuery has no doubt been one of the most dominant tools in the JavaScript ecosystem. It has helped countless developers by making their life easier and for that, the web dev community will always be grateful. But is it time to move on and let jQuery go? Is retirement calling?

Recently, I came across an old discussion on the pros and cons of using jQuery and its future. The discussion had taken place back in 2016 with experts like Jen LooperTodd Motto, and Jeremy Likness agreeing on the fact that “Angular, Knockout, React, etc. have all contributed to diminishing the need for jQuery.”

The discussion itself as well as the title of the post “Is jQuery Still Relevant?” got me thinking. Is this really happening? Is jQuery becoming redundant, for real?

After a bit of research, I found some other posts and discussions all focusing on whether jQuery is still relevant or not and if you would be better off moving away from the library.

And then… BOOM! GitHub announced that they are removing jQuery from GitHub.com frontend.

The team wrote in a recent blog post:

We have recently completed a milestone where we were able to drop jQuery as a dependency of the frontend code for GitHub.com. This marks the end of a gradual, years-long transition of increasingly decoupling from jQuery until we were able to completely remove the library.

How long has this “moving away from jQuery” thing been going on? How did one of the most dominant tools in the JavaScript ecosystem end up withering?

Let’s take a closer look at the reasoning various sides offer on the relevance (or irrelevance) of jQuery.

How it all started

The original and most prominent feature that made jQuary a God in web development was the cross-browser compatibility that, back in the day, was still a huge issue.

Midway, jQuery added tons of extra functions and wrappers like.ajax(), .post(), event binding helpers that made it super amazing for web developers but it also made it tricky for frontend developers since, at some point, they would find it quite difficult to know what was actually going on behind the curtains.

What’s more, new tools that came along the way, like Angular or React, took away a big chunk of the spotlight.

There was another factor contributing to jQuery’s downfall and that was the team’s rather sluggish updates and releases. The last couple of years or so the team has moved to a new system with roughly two releases per year. Not to mention that these releases focus on removing features rather than adding new ones or making groundbreaking changes.

Moving to some real-time examples, even before the news bomb from GitHub dropped, there were various companies documenting their decoupling from jQuery and how they ended up with a faster platform because of that.

On the other hand, if you take a look at jQuery usage statistics you cannot really see the numbers going down. What I gathered from the discussion on the Telerik blog I mentioned earlier is that most of this usage is legacy rather than new applications.

There is always the other side of the coin

The trend of moving away from jQuery can be documented as early as 2014 (if my research is correct). But there are some developers that still keep the jQuery flag high.

In a couple of threads on Reddit and Hackernews, people have been expressing their intention to keep working with jQuery and their opinion that the whole “hate” on jQuery is rather unfair.

I think all of this recent Jquery hate is just odd. Suddenly it’s not cool to use a ‘old’ relatively lightweight javascript library just because it’s not sexy…? jQuery might not be as sexy from a developers standpoint lately. But it is from a business standpoint, code maintainability, and just basic “Get S*** Done” standpoint. I think its worth all 92ko’s in allot of cases.

Some others may recognize the withering trend of the library but strongly believe that we have not yet seen a definite downfall.

jQuery isn’t going to go anywhere until businesses can realistically assume that the vast majority of their customers are on modern browsers. So it might be dying, but, much like Adobe Flash, it’s going to be a slow death.

There may be hope yet

The jQuery team has mentioned in 2017 that they are working for some big things for the 4.0 release.

Indeed, the roadmap shows some interesting ideas the team has been working on like create a web download builder and add automated code coverage. Will this be enough for the legendary library to gain back all the lost momentum?

We will see. For now, you can let us know in the poll below if jQuery is still an important tool for you.

Are you still using jQuery?

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Author
Eirini-Eleni Papadopoulou
Eirini-Eleni Papadopoulou is an assistant editor for JAXenter.com. Just finished her masters in Modern East Asian Studies and plans to continue with her old hobby that is computer science.

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