Google Update: Executing and Rendering Javascript

In terms of annoyance, JavaScript may have ranked right up there with animated gifs, or <blink> dancing hamsters back in the mid-90s to early 2000’s.

A developer’s stance on pure JavaScript centered on the differences between engines and browsers, or possibly security concerns since the code is executed by the client instead of the server and it could expose their machine for malicious purposes. End users wanting to accomplish something on a webpage might have been greeted with butterflies floating across the screen, endless popup boxes or pages that simply didn’t work in their browser.

Overall, JavaScript had a horrible reputation and (in my opinion) needed a few saviors to keep it from the technology graveyard. Enter frameworks, AJAX and standards.

Over the last few years, JQuery, Mootools, Dojo, Node and a host of other frameworks have distanced developers from the pain of IE vs. Chrome vs. FireFox by adding a consistent layer of methods and properties that deal with the browser differences under the hood. Taking browser differences away allows developers to focus on maturing the use of JavaScript – and gone are the butterflies and Rick-Roll popups. Form field validation, handling responsive design for different devices and parsing AJAX now compliment the end user experience instead of hindering it.

Standards have also been added into these browsers so there are less and less differences in the interpretation of JavaScript. It has now turned into a speed contest between browsers to tout how fast their rendering engine is. All of this is pure benefit to the end user. It creates consistency and allows users to choose what browser they like the best instead of the webpage forcing them to use a particular one.

The modern web could not exist without AJAX. This crucial technology allows small requests and responses to happen within a web page without a complete page reload. Maps, chat feeds and news services all rely on this technology to create a fluid user experience. The workhorse for this, however, is JavaScript. The events of the user trigger JavaScript functions to initiate the AJAX request, and it’s up to JavaScript to then change the webpage to do something useful with the response.

So why does any of this matter for your business and marketing strategy? Perhaps the final piece of the puzzle to solidify JavaScript as a key component in websites is that Google announced that they are now executing and rendering JavaScript as they crawl websites. Until recently, Google would look at only the HTML of a page, relying on solid markup and content in that HTML to rank it. Google has recognized that times have changed and now the importance of a site isn’t necessarily limited to that static content. JavaScript and AJAX may be creating a different page for the end user that Google would not see without executing the JavaScript also.

Take a look at the following picture. On the left is what a normal user sees when they visit this certain webpage. On the right shows what that same page looks like when JavaScript isn’t executed. It is quite a difference – and it creates a huge difference in experience and content.

javascript

Google’s execution of JavaScript is a welcome announcement – and I, for one, am thrilled that JavaScript is being recognized by a major search engine as a component of web development that is important enough to include in their crawling and ranking process.

Dan’s our web programmer-in-chief, specializing in “back end” systems like Apoxe, our own custom content management system. He’s also a pretty funny guy – if anyone could make “trends in web programming” interesting, it’s Dan.

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