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JavaScript API Design and DSLs

Alex R. Young

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eval opinion design

JavaScript API Design and DSLs

Posted by Alex R. Young on .
Featured

eval opinion design

JavaScript API Design and DSLs

Posted by Alex R. Young on .

I've noticed that the JavaScript community has been moving towards more
dynamic approaches to API design -- especially from authors with a Ruby
or Lisp background. While it's possible to create your own languages
within JavaScript -- just look at what 280north has done with
Objective-J -- this isn't always required. It's tempting to make an API
DSL-like, but are we better off using simpler, more established
techniques?

Yesterday I wrote about a Sinatra-like library for creating super-simple
JavaScript web apps. The API allows you to define routes that map
between URLs and HTTP methods. These definitions return a string. In
this case, the library implicitly returns -- you don't need to return
from the functions themselves. Matt
Brubeck
noticed this and commented on the
article:

"It's clever how they're using "eval" on the function body to save you from typing "return", but is it really necessary?"

I think this was a great point. I try to err on the Douglas
Crockford
school of JavaScript. Over
the years his work explored object oriented patterns in JavaScript,
eventually leading him to conclude the following:

"I have been writing JavaScript for 8 years now, and I have never once found need to use an uber function. The super idea is fairly important in the classical pattern, but it appears to be unnecessary in the prototypal and functional patterns. I now see my early attempts to support the classical model in JavaScript as a mistake."

As people experiment with novel uses of eval, new
Function
and with over the coming years, will we
reach a similar conclusion? Is it worth creating rich and innovative
twists on what is possible or should we stick to straight-forward uses
of the language?