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The Rise of the Front End Developers

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In any web development company, there exists two different worlds; well there are more, but we’ll just focus on - front end (designers) & back end (developers)

The Front end guys are responsible for making something that is visible to the end users (THE LOOK). The back end guys are responsible for making the front end work (THE FUNCTIONALITY). Together, they both deliver a complete web application/site.

The back end developers would typically use programming languages, such as Java/C++/Python. Apart from talking to database and processing requests, they even have an arsenal of libraries to generate the site markup (JSPs, server side templates, etc).

Front end guys usually fill in by writing HTML documents and CSS files (merely a writer) to present this markup in an visually pleasing way and back end just take these templates to populate data.

Front end had only one option to do any logical operations, by using JavaScript - which has been used for a long time just to validate forms (and do some freaky stuffs).

Because of this cultural difference, there’s always been a ego-war between these two worlds. Even the company management would rate the front end guys par below the back end developers because the front ends guys don’t do any serious programming.

All was going fine until the web2.0 era. Now, the front end realized that they could use JavaScript to do much more cooler stuffs than just the form validation. The development of high speed JavaScript engines (such as V8) made it possible to run complex JavaScript code right in the browser. With the introduction of technologies such as WebGL and Canvas, even graphics rendering became feasible using JavaScript.

But, this didn’t change anything on the server side; the server programs were still running on JVMs/Rubys/Pythons.

Fast forward to today: The scenario is dramatically changing. JavaScript has just sneaked its way into the servers. Now, it is no longer required that a web application needs to have a back end programming language such as Java/C++. Everything can be done using just JavaScript.

Thanks to node.js which made it possible to run the JavaScript on the server side. Using MongoDB, one can replace the need to have SQL code and now store JSON documents using JavaScript MongoDB connectors. The JavaScript template libraries such as {{Mustache}}/Underscore almost removed the need to have server side templates (JSPs). On the client side, JavaScript MVC frameworks such as Backbone.JS enable us to write maintainable code. And, there’s always the plain old JavaScript waiting for us to write some form validation script.

With that, now it is possible to do the heavy lifting just by using JavaScript. The front end JavaScript programmers no longer need to focus on just the front end. They can use their skill set to develop the web application end-to-end.

This rise of the front end developers poses a real threat to the survival of back end developers. If you are one of that back end guy, do you already realize this threat? What’s your game plan to stay fit to survive this challenge?



Published at DZone with permission of Veera Sundar, author and DZone MVB.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)


Peter Manolov replied on Mon, 2012/01/30 - 3:39am

Can you please give me an example of a good IDE I can use when creating my "server side" javascript. I am not being sarcastic, I really want to know. Cause let's be honest a good IDE helps quite a bit when it comes to language addoption.

Karl Peterbauer replied on Mon, 2012/01/30 - 4:53am

With tools like GWT it's possible to write both server- and client-side code in plain old Java ;-)

Otengi Miloskov replied on Mon, 2012/01/30 - 8:29am in response to: Karl Peterbauer

You said it, and with type safety and all the speed, IDE, Tools, Libraries etc etc goodies of the java platform.
javascript is cool for the front end, I use it everyday with jquery but GWT its a nice tool.

Otengi Miloskov replied on Mon, 2012/01/30 - 8:37am in response to: Peter Manolov

This is exactly the same problem as with ruby and all the dynamic languages. There is not good IDE that can do refactorings and many advance stuff. Performance, V8 is fast but cant beat JVM and static compilation.

Really folks this node.js thing is just fad, as in 2005 that everybody swear Ruby was the next big thing and look, now they swear is Scala or node.js.

I recognize that javascript have a bright future is the lingua franca of the Web but there is not one tool for all the jobs. let the backend for the backend tools(Java,C#,Python) and let the frontend tools(javascript) for the front end.

Jose Smith replied on Mon, 2012/01/30 - 11:06am

This article is depressing. For the last several years I thought I was a hardcore UI programmer. I just found out that I'm merely a writer and those pesky back end developers have been secretly doing my work (THE FUNCTIONALITY).

Ketan Padia replied on Mon, 2012/01/30 - 7:35pm

How about Apache Wicket with wiquery or jqwicket? In Wicket we can change HTML tag attribute programmatically.

Lund Wolfe replied on Sun, 2012/02/05 - 2:38am

Javascript is replacing Java, even on the server !? Javascript was created to have something, anything, for dynamic programming on the client side. It was a reject from the start, according to the creators (a necessary evil) and never got better (and unfortunately was never replaced with anything better).

I think Java client and server side jobs are secure.

Krish Kumar replied on Thu, 2012/12/13 - 6:26am

 Front end developer has most of responsibilities while creating any application and they should updated all time to make a difference.

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Krish Kumar replied on Wed, 2012/12/19 - 6:15am

 We can say this development cycle and it is the process of making project with user reliable and fulfill with their requirement.

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Nari Dav replied on Thu, 2012/12/27 - 7:45am

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Rock Wilson replied on Mon, 2013/02/18 - 5:00am

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Rock Wilson replied on Thu, 2013/03/28 - 5:01am

Front End developers are very much important as back end, with the combination of both the developers we invent a new product so its really usefull for us!!!!

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Rock Wilson replied on Wed, 2013/04/10 - 6:50am

Both are important front end and backed developer as the development can be done with them!!!! ecommerce website design india ecommerce website design india buy alphonso mangoes online buy alphonso mangoes online

Rock Wilson replied on Thu, 2013/07/11 - 6:30am

Well both are important front end and back end, in every fade of it....


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Alan Knight replied on Fri, 2013/09/06 - 1:43am

 both of them are important and  a must. also need some language staff e.g. chinese interpreter  traductor español chino   etc. to make multi-language website .

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