I was working on another blog post when I stumbled on some interesting data about the use of javascript on the Internet. I was looking at the data on browser statistics on www.w3schools.com and noticed that the percentage of users browsing the Internet with javascript turned on has increased quite substantially in the last year (from 90% to 94%). Before you call me out on it: 4% is a small percentage, but think about how many computers that is (it is about the same percentage of people who are browsing with a Mac). Check out this chart (based on the data located here):

Chart of Javascript Usage

I have to put a very important note about the data: W3Schools data is not perfect because it is based on the data collected by people that visit their site, not necessarily the Internet as a whole. They even state this fact on the browser statistics page “W3Schools is a website for people with an interest for web technologies. These people are more interested in using alternative browsers than the average user” (they are referring to the fact that Firefox is usually reported higher on the w3schools.com than the Internet as a whole). We still can infer some trends with the data.

What is causing this?

There are several things that can be causing the trend:

  • It could be that older browsers that do not support javascript are being replaced by newer browsers that do support javascript.

  • It could be that the ways they are monitoring javascript on or off has changed or improved.

  • It could be that people who have previously turned off javascript are turning it back on in the face of Web 2.0 AJAX applications.

Things to consider

Have you ever browsed the Internet with javascript turned off? Give it a try sometime, it can be a very unpleasant experience. Many sites (including big eCommerce ones) do not properly account for javascript being disabled. There are some sites that do it quite well with content that is specifically targeted at the browsers with javascript turned off.

Should we build our sites as Web 1.0 and then implement them as Web 2.0 on top of it? We had this discussion at Barcamp Madison in March. I think the consensus of the group was that if you wanted to broadest reach appeal in your application that it should work as both a classic web application and one that uses AJAX and DOM effects. There is always going to be a trade off on the reach of your application and the cost to get that reach.

Corporate security policies may quickly change the percentages. In the past year security researchers such as SpiDynamics have demonstrated “proof of concept” hacks to attack private networks from Internet web sites using only javascript. It one of these attacks goes from “proof of concept” to actual implementation you could see a dramatic shift in the availability of javascript on the client’ss web browser. This would initially effect browsers that are managed by corporate IT, but a lot of people browse the Internet from work.