I­­­ read an article the other day by Nicholas C. Zakas titled ‘The Problem with Native Javascript APIs’, and found it thoroughly depressing.

“Browsers are written by humans just like web pages are written by humans. All humans have one thing in common: They make mistakes. Browsers have bugs just like web pages have bugs just like any other software has bugs. The native APIs you are relying on likely have bugs”

I’m not totally naïve, of course I understand that it is rare that a code base will be bug-free, but I find it a real shame that someone like Nicholas, a respected authority for javascript who strongly advocates best-practise methodologies, would be so dismissive of native code within the browser. These APIs are in there to help us, as developers, and as a result of being coded natively are typically considerably faster than equivalent javascript would be.

So why does he have this attitude? It’s not totally unfounded, and he does present one example of a native API which had different bugs in the implementation Firefox and WebKit, which we know from history is just one of many browser bugs.

His solution to avoiding native APIs, then? Write it yourself, of course!

There are two ways that you can rewrite a native API: either by using a façade, such as jQuery, which provides an alternate interface to existing code; or a polyfill, such as Modernizer, which attempts to implement native API functionality which may be missing. Nicholas advocates facades, as polyfills “represent yet another implementation of the same functionality”. I don’t totally understand this, as it seems that facades do the exact same thing, just with a different interface, but that’s neither here nor there, as it seems to me that both have their place within a code base.

The final solution presented recreates the functionality of the native API, but without using it directly. This to me stinks of reinventing the wheel. Furthermore, I think it’s downright arrogant to assume that your code is somehow impervious to bugs. Imagine if we all had this viewpoint, and used no third party code at all. The reason we use third party libraries and frameworks is because they allow us to concentrate on the code that is relevant to us. If you know there is a bug in some code, don’t waste your time by duplicating the functionality and adding to your own codebase, let the developers know: file bug reports, email them, tweet. Get it fixed and help everybody.*

*Interestingly enough, the author has even noted that the bugs mentioned in the case study have both been sorted! Think about how many of us developers are using browsers: it’s far more likely that a bug in Chrome will be noticed, for example, than a bug in your code.

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