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An Attempt To Use Browserify

Fraser Xu on

As a front-end developer I began using jQuery early on. I wasn’t ready to jump on the JavaScript train but jQuery makes it easy for beginners to get started. After cutting my teeth on a few languages, libraries, and frameworks, and with awesome browser advances in the last few years, I grew to feel that:

  • jQuery can be a bit bloated when compared to other libraries.
  • Efficient libraries or API’s should do most of the work: capturing webcam streams, creating a cat GIF, allowing users to download and share content, etc. I’m not going to reinvent the wheel.
  • The DOM is a much more friendly place than it used to be.

Keeping these thoughts in mind, and coupled with fact that I’m writing more and more Node.js lately, I decided to build a lightweight GIF generator: Gifme. I used this as an exercise to learn a few new libraries and API endpoints in a fun way. I had also been itching to try out a certain packet manager: Browserify.

Browserify is magical.

At Wiredcraft we’re always looking for the best libraries for every level of our stack. We’ve been using npm for our web servers and were interested in experimenting with Browserify after reading Kyle Robinson Young’s post: Using npm on the client side.

Long story short, you can use core node-modules on the client-side. This makes it easy to use and re-use modules created by you or the community. Using require('modules') in the browser brings npm from the back-end to the front-end - awesomeness at every level! The magic? Where’s the magic? A good chunk of the npm modules will work out of the box or with a wrapper within your browser. Allowing the app to run without using a back-end has a few perks such as no back-end configuration or a decrease in your hosting bill.

Embrace lazy. Leverage APIs.

Browser-side innovation has rapidly increased in the last few years. I was especially interested in using the user’s media device through getUserMedia and files through the File API. By using the Image Upload end point of Imgur we let third-party libraries handle the heavy lifting. Although the browser API isn’t perfect, it’s there and waiting for you to play with it.

Living in the front-end? I love it!

I can now grab the user’s webcam stream, generate a GIF, and let the user download or share it on an image hosting platform. And all of this is done in the front-end using a lightweight interface!

Gifme

My last task was to use my nonexistent design skills to develop the user interface. After a quick tour on Github trending I found once again what I needed from the community: slidr.js. Voila! A simple app with no back-end of any kind.

Bringing this back to jQuery I found that the native DOM API is good enough for these kinds of applications (check out Substack’s take: Weaning yourself off jQuery. Furthermore, the full Gifme app is around 110kb. Since Gifme includes libraries to make the GIF (which are fairly large) using jQuery would have created a much bigger app.

If you want to hack on it, just head to the Github repository.