This allowed developers to stop thinking about the best way to solve the browser problem, and concentrate on their problem.
Prototype and jQuery were geared, in a large part, to the existing pool of web developers. Their primary purpose was to provide a bedrock that you could build anything on top of, be it a multimedia presentation, animation, or user interface widget.
YUI was something slightly different. There certainly were aspects of existing web development methodology in its design, but at the same time the overall philosophy seemed to be “How can we bring the existing concepts of software UI design to to the web”.
That was then, and this is now. It’s 2009 and the economy is going through horrible gyrations. This always brings a shift in the way we approach technology.
Second, we’re going to see a battle for which UI library will become the dominant way to provide a desktop application like experience via the web browser. YUI started this trend, and you can already see an arms race heating up with jQuery UI and the sort-of-fork to YUI, Ext JS. The big shift here is the original wave of libraries were about providing access to the DOM to build whatever UI Widgets you wanted. The next wave is going to be about providing an already completed set of robust UI Widgets so you can concentrate on your application logic.
All very exciting stuff, with two caveats.
All this makes me believe we’re headed toward a continued balkanization of the web as an application platform, with a possible widespread return to the “You must use Browser X” days of the first dot com boom. It’s never been easy to create cross-browser applications, but we may be headed to a place where it’s simply not feasible.
All that said, the developer that knows the ins and outs of the various browsers and can both work around quirks or avoid them in the first place is going to be well situated.
Ending on an Awe Inspiring Note
One project I’ve failed to mention so far is the mind boggling Cappuccino, which combines both approaches I’ve already mentioned.
Secondly, using Apple’s Cocoa as a model, they’ve created a rich, object oriented UI framework that completely (leaks aside) abstract the DOM out of the picture.