The jQuery Foundation – Bringing Open Source JavaScript Libraries to Millions of Web Sites

The jQuery Foundation – Bringing Open Source JavaScript Libraries to Millions of Web Sites

An Interview with Dave Methvin, President, jQuery Foundation

jQuery is the world’s most popular JavaScript library. It is open source and it is supported by the jQuery Foundation. In this discussion with Dave Methvin, the president of the jQuery foundation, we discuss the current position and the future evolution of jQuery, as well as other open source projects supported by the foundation.

jQuery Foundation

HostAdvice: Dave, can you please tell me a little bit about yourself and your background?

Sure. I have been working with jQuery for a long time – about 10 years – including some very large projects. I got into open source development because of John Resig.  He is absolutely great at getting people involved. John is the original creator of the jQuery library and continues to work with the jQuery team to help set the direction of the project.

HostAdvice: Before we get into the jQuery Foundation and its projects, please give our readers a brief overview of what jQuery is and how and when it is used.

jQuery is the world’s most popular JavaScript library, designed to simplify client-side scripting of HTML. It is cross-platform (e.g. works with all major browsers and included by Microsoft with Visual Studio) and offers dynamic animations and effects.

Since it is mainly document oriented – it is essentially a DOM (Document Object Model) manipulation library – it is best suited for web sites as opposed to web applications. For web applications, you’re probably better off with something like Angular, Ember, or React. It doesn’t matter what you are using on the backend – it can be .NET, PHP, Ruby, or whatever.

jQuery is currently used by 70% of the top 10,000 web sites and 78% of the top 1 million web sites. It will work in any browser that supports JavaScript.


HostAdvice: So what is the jQuery Foundation?

The goal of the jQuery Foundation is to support open source projects that serve the community and help it grow.  We are looking to encourage and nurture more development teams, more participation, and more outside contributors. Today, it is hard to find any significant JavaScript project that isn’t using some of the jQuery Foundation’s projects.

We mainly support developers by helping them make the connections and contacts necessary for their projects to succeed. We also offer financial support and resources, in the form of project hosting or travel to conferences. The project teams, however, must provide their own development resources.

HostAdvice: What is your role in the foundation? Is it a paid position? How much of your time does it take up?

I am currently the president of the jQuery Foundation and also a member of the jQuery Core team.  I led the core team for several years, but stepped down from that role last year. Both of these positions are unpaid, volunteer positions. Together, they take up about 25% of my time.

HostAdvice: Then what do you do for a living?

Today my business is focused on consulting – mainly training and helping web development teams with optimizing their sites. What this means is that most of my work consists of short-term engagements. While I do enjoy this, it is a very challenging business model – especially for a sole practitioner – since you always need to be looking for your next gig.

HostAdvice: How many members does the jQuery Foundation have today? Are they individuals or companies? What are the benefits of membership?

We no longer have individual memberships – only organizational memberships.  We found in the past that there was just too much more work involved in having individual memberships.  We do sometimes receive donations from individuals, but our support and funding is mainly from companies.

The benefits we offer our member companies include resources, infrastructure, and services. For example, we can often arrange for various service providers to offer our members higher free limits for their services.  As I mentioned previously, we do occasionally offer cash support for specific purposes. Today we have about a dozen company members.

We also have organized several events a year, ranging from 20 to 700 participants.

We do all this with only one paid employee – our executive director Kris Borchers – and a few contractors that keep our servers and developer operations running smoothly.

jQuery Foundation membership

HostAdvice: There is clearly a pretty tight relationship and interweaving between the two sites and  What are supposed to be the roles or positioning of those two sites? is for the foundation and is for the jQuery project.  We generally have a separate site for each project, although that is not strictly required.

HostAdvice: How do you decide which projects – particularly non-jQuery projects – to support?

We are interested in projects that offer significant value to the JavaScript developer community.  Up until now, all of our projects have been libraries and infrastructure projects, but that might change in the future.

The licensing of the end product is also very important to us. We require a very open license such as the BSD or MIT open source license, as opposed to the GPL license where licensees are required to contribute any change back to the project.

HostAdvice: What do you think is the most interesting or innovative project the jQuery Foundation is currently supporting?

So…You’re asking me to tell you which one of my children I love the most? [laughs] It really depends on what we are trying to do at any given time.  Some of the projects are still in the process of being developed and some of them are already completed.

jquery foundation projects

HostAdvice: Your site proclaims “Join our Open Web Movement” – What is that about?

We want to see all software be open source and freely available, rather than being proprietary and tying developers to one single company.

HostAdvice: How do you see yourselves as similar and as different from other open-source movements?

We focus on the JavaScript world, mostly libraries and frameworks. Other organizations, such as the Node.js Foundation or the Linux Foundation, focus on other platforms and objectives.

HostAdvice: I would guess that there are a lot of people involved in these various projects.  About how many active contributors do you have today?

In the past 30 days, we have had dozens of developers contribute across all of our projects. More than 5,000 people have contributed to jQuery Foundation projects over their lifetimes.

HostAdvice: What is the most challenging browser to support? Why?

jQuery provides a common programming interface to all browsers, so we know the nuances of browsers very well.  Every browser has its own quirks, but supporting older browsers are certainly more challenging.  The same is often true with under-powered cellphones that run poor browsers.

jquery browser support

HostAdvice: How do you see web development and web programming in general evolving over the next 1, 2, 5 years?

That’s actually pretty hard to predict. The web development profession is still in a state of serious churn, with developers constantly trying to figure out what technologies and infrastructures to adopt.  Yes, many developers have decided and made commitments, but we are not completely there yet.

My personal view is that we are still far, far away from a unified direction.

That’s why at the jQuery Foundation we support projects that the community has clearly decided are important.  We’re not trying to push or lock anyone into any particular technology or tool. The fact that JavaScript is not owned by a single company makes it that much more “chaotic.”

HostAdvice: What about jQuery specifically over the next 1, 2, 5 years?

The jQuery library will continue to develop in the coming years, but the changes will be evolutionary, not revolutionary. At this point, there are too many developers using the library.  We can’t make things totally different, because doing so would literally break millions of web sites.

Therefore, changes to jQuery will be slow and deliberate.  If someone wants to make revolutionary changes, they can do so by adding a plugin to our source code.  That is one of the reasons we made sure that the library had a robust and easy extensibility model.  We wanted developers to be able to support their specific needs, without adding built-in overhead for everyone else.

HostAdvice: How many hours a day do you normally work? What do you like to do when you’re not working?

dave methvin

I am usually on the computer or on the phone most of my waking hours. That is true even in the evening, although then I am usually watching television at the same time.
I guess that is just the way it is in today’s world.

I normally spend about 8 hours a day formally working and then another 4 hours “wandering around” the internet – reading articles and answering questions.

When I am not working, I love to go walking with my wife, do woodworking, and ride my electric unicycle.

HostAdvice: If you were asked to give the graduation address to the class of 2016, what would be your message to them?

Graduates today are already more comfortable and familiar with technology than older people.  I would still emphasize to them that they should get to know technology, because it will be part of everything that they will do in life.

Then again, they probably know that better than I do…

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