By David F. Carr  |  Posted 2007-10-17 Print this article Print

Yahoo's Rasmus Lerdorf talks about why he has stopped "hating" front-end browser applications.

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The development of standards has helped, but JavaScript programs and even more basic elements of Web development such as Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) formatting commands are still implemented a bit differently on every browser (and every release of a given browser). The YUI code libraries attempt to compensate for these differences while also enabling more advanced effects such as animation, drag-and-drop and drop-down menus.

In contrast with the AJAX code in Microsoft's developer tools or the open source world's Ruby on Rails, the YUI is not part of a broad Web development framework. Lerdorf says he discouraged the YUI team from trying to create a framework because he is generally suspicious of cure-all solutions to software development problems. "Sure, you should have a framework," he says, "but the question is, whose framework should it be? In most cases, I believe you should write it yourself."

The YUI's piecemeal approach appeals to engineers who want what they want and no more, Sha says. "You don't have to take the whole package. You can pick and choose what you need."

Developers should be judicious about picking the libraries they use in their applications and recognize their limits, Sha says. "If you're working with the animation library, use it for simple effects. Don't try to create a movie."

Along with new possibilities, AJAX brings hazards that are "just destroying the Web right now," Lerdorf says.

"Once you move half the application to the front end, the back end gets very simple," he says, but it also takes away control because that front-end code is released onto the Internet, where hackers can manipulate it. "So you have to ask yourself, what could they send us to trip us up? The answer is, a lot."

Defending against such attacks is not easy, particularly for startups too busy creating applications and going after market acceptance to worry about security, Lerdorf says. "When the news hits that they're about to be bought by Yahoo or Google, the hackers descend in droves." Write to author David F. Carr.

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David F. Carr David F. Carr is the Technology Editor for Baseline Magazine, a Ziff Davis publication focused on information technology and its management, with an emphasis on measurable, bottom-line results. He wrote two of Baseline's cover stories focused on the role of technology in disaster recovery, one focused on the response to the tsunami in Indonesia and another on the City of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.David has been the author or co-author of many Baseline Case Dissections on corporate technology successes and failures (such as the role of Kmart's inept supply chain implementation in its decline versus Wal-Mart or the successful use of technology to create new market opportunities for office furniture maker Herman Miller). He has also written about the FAA's halting attempts to modernize air traffic control, and in 2003 he traveled to Sierra Leone and Liberia to report on the role of technology in United Nations peacekeeping.David joined Baseline prior to the launch of the magazine in 2001 and helped define popular elements of the magazine such as Gotcha!, which offers cautionary tales about technology pitfalls and how to avoid them.

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