Famo.us, jQuery join forces for slicker, smoother Web

Famo.us is now a founding member of the jQuery Foundation; their first joint mission will be to curate quality Web widgets for developers

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Credit: Vincent Baas

Famo.us, the startup that gave us a remarkable 3D JavaScript/HTML5 presentation engine and mobile app development platform, is joining up with the jQuery Foundation, the organization responsible for the stewardship of the near-universally used JavaScript utility library.

The partnership has three key components. Foremost among them: Famo.us co-founder and CEO, Steve Newcomb, will join the jQuery Foundation's board of directors. Famo.us will also commit financial support to the jQuery Foundation, to the tune of $720,000 over the course of three years.

Lastly, Famo.us plans to work with jQuery to produce a collection of high-quality widgets for the Web -- carousels, photo viewers, lightboxes, slideshows, and so on -- all powered by the Famo.us library and supported jointly going forward.

In a short video presentation, which also includes examples of the Famo.us library in action, Newcomb outlined the goals of the initiative, along with what Famo.us plans to bring to the table: "We're going to be bringing the power and beauty of our 3D layout engine and our 3D physics engine to the jQuery community," he explained.

When asked about the technical details of reworking existing jQuery widgets to use the Famo.us framework, Newcomb made it clear that such revised widgets ought not to create problems in terms of load time or page weight.

"When you build a widget with Famo.us," he explained, "it only brings in the bits of the library that are needed to render that one widget, so it's a very componentized way of minifying the JS." In one example he cited, the entire widget used barely half a kilobyte; his argument was that older widgets would actually stand to have a higher overhead because they wouldn't be as optimized.

But the real issue Newcomb wants to tackle with this partnership is, for lack of a better word, curation. Much of the problem with jQuery-powered widgets today -- and Web widgets in general -- is a lack of support, as Newcomb explained in a phone interview.

"In the widget world," he explained, "if you pick your favorite widget, the person developing it might get a job or abandon it, and suddenly the widget would have no support. So what if we had a concerted effort toward making sure the most popular jQuery widgets had attention paid to them by the Foundation?"

Another long-term problem Newcomb wants to help address, with the Foundation's aid, is how developers find and use widgets in the first place, which Newcomb feels is still too much of a catch-as-catch-can affair. However, the details for this part of the initiative haven't been hammered out yet.

jQuery's board currently includes two other companies: IBM and WordPress. Having Famo.us establish a presence on the jQuery Foundation's board was, in Newcomb's view, about "representing JavaScript as a language and Web development as a community" for the sake of bettering jQuery's governance. 

As Dave Methvin, president of the jQuery Foundation, explained in an email, "Famo.us brings a third and different perspective. jQuery Foundation projects are used in all of those places, obviously, but we like having the variety of takes on how the projects fit in different environments.... Steve himself has used jQuery and knows firsthand about some of the challenges that Web developers face in finding quality well-supported plug-ins and widgets that work with jQuery. Bringing that community perspective to the jQuery Foundation is important for the same reason that we feel it's important to bring our perspective to W3C and TC39. We all need to listen to our constituencies."

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