Jens Oliver Meiert

On the Responsibility That Comes with Good JavaScript Support

Post from March 26, 2020, filed under .

According to the data we have, the classic idea of making sure websites and apps work—function and display acceptably—without JavaScript being enabled is dead. (How we would arrive at this conclusion I explained in more detail in “Must Work Without JavaScript” as well as in colspan=15 of my German column for heise Developer.)

When we look only at support requirements for web developers, this was the end of the story: JavaScript is supported almost everywhere, pretty much no one can’t or doesn’t run it, no need to do extra work for when it’s disabled, fin. It’s not, however, when we employ a broader look at JavaScript and its misuses.

JavaScript Abuse and Its Consequences

Some people who read my prior reasoning did not take kindly to the proposition that sites and apps would not need to work without JavaScript anymore. (I love feedback, but you help me and other authors by sharing it clearly and constructively. I like to take your thoughts seriously and if it’s just anger I can’t respond, let alone learn from you.)

Apparently, the responses showed, there is great concern about how JavaScript is being used, with issues going from security to privacy to accessibility to performance. This concern about how JavaScript was employed led to the following kind of argument:

P
There are many problems with how JavaScript is being used.
C
Therefore, it’s important that JavaScript can be disabled.

This argument is understandable. Alas, it’s not a very good argument because the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premise. It’s equally “logical” to come up with this one, matching how I had silently treated the concern:

P
There are many problems with how JavaScript is being used.
C
Therefore, it’s important to use JavaScript more responsibly.

As you can tell, this perspective, drawing a different conclusion, shifts responsibility and gives the option to assert that JavaScript support is strong enough not to warrant a demand to have sites and apps work without it. It’s not in the premise where we had found disagreement, but in the different “conclusions.”

The second argument does indeed not say that JavaScript quality, security, privacy, accessibility, or performance were unimportant or irrelevant, simply because it’s possible to assume JavaScript support. Seeing that in the argument put forth in “Must Work Without JavaScript” is much like this precious fallacy:

P
The winger didn’t make an assist.
C
Therefore, he scored an own goal.

Now, all this logical fooling around builds up to a point:

There are many problems with how JavaScript is being used, and it’s important to use JavaScript more responsibly.

Responsible JavaScript

What does that mean?

On a high level, in my mind, the following:

What does this mean specifically?

That’s not the point of this article, and neither my main expertise. But pointers for all of these may be found here:

When this is all given, I’m convinced that there be fewer concerns around not providing no-JavaScript fallbacks, because fewer people would feel pushed to disable JavaScript.

What site owners, developers, and users prioritize and decide to do, and when, that’s a different story, however. Different levels of craftsmanship and different user needs will probably accompany us for forever. Yet even irresponsible JavaScript does not mean that JavaScript support cannot, or must not, be assumed. Sites and apps must really not “work without JavaScript.” But they, and we, really should use JavaScript more responsibly.

Many thanks to Hannes Schluchtmann for reviewing this post.

Val rides homeward through a sunny peaceful land.

Figure: Sunny peaceful JavaScript land. (Copyright King Features Syndicate, Inc., distr. Bulls.)

About Me

Jens Oliver Meiert, on September 27, 2019.

I’m Jens Oliver Meiert, and I’m a web developer and author. I love trying things, including in the fields of philosophy, art, and adventure. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.

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Last update: March 26, 2020

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