The Myth of 'It's Just Javascript'

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If you’ve spent some time in frontend land, chances are you’ve heard someone say “it’s just javascript” when referencing a framework, library or snazzy new tool. While the phrase has an element of truth in it—a framework like React compiles down to JavaScript for instance—it often betrays the full picture. For one, a frontend framework like React or Ember often involves complex-ish tooling, templating systems, and high level architectural decisions around state management, and routing. Saying something is “just JavaScript” creates a culture of shaming and heightens the (already fairly high) barrier to entry for newer developers. It also paradoxically “cheapens” the work of practising JavaScript developers by making it seem like their work is trivial. Quite like the oft-misquoted phrase “A jack of all trades is a master of none”*, let’s stop popularizing the half truth that things are “Just JavaScript”. Instead, let’s do the frontend world some justice and express our work with a more nuanced approach that takes into account the chaotic albeit robust ecosystem that we’ve worked so hard to build. Maybe this way we can start having more meaningful, and productive conversations without delving into yet another pithy argument over who or what framework/tool/library is better.

*The phrase is often used in its unfinished state and so its meaning is often misconstrued. In full, the phrase reads “A jack of all trades is a master of none but oftentimes better than a master at one.” Contrary to the commonly-held negative notion of being a generalist (i.e. jack of all trades), the true nature of the phrase reveals that being a generalist is actually not a bad thing at all.