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Salesforce Lightning Web Components adds JavaScript model

By moving toward a standard-based JavaScript model, Salesforce is appealing to millions of JavaScript developers by making it easier to build custom apps on Salesforce Lightning.

Salesforce released Lightning Web Components, a JavaScript-based programming model for building apps on Lightning, to better align itself with the industry-standard programming language.

The CRM software vendor's move toward JavaScript is necessary, because JavaScript is used on roughly 95% of websites, and there are more than 7 million full-time JavaScript developers, according to Arnal Dayaratna, research director at IDC.

By moving Salesforce toward JavaScript with Lightning Web Components and away from Aura, a programming framework Salesforce built in-house in 2013, Salesforce is aligning itself with how the programming industry wants to operate, Dayaratna said.

"A lot of companies -- and Salesforce is one of them -- are waking up to the realization that the tech company with the best relationship with developers is the tech company that wins," he said.

Dayaratna added that Salesforce's Lightning Web Components has the functionality now to provide a standard-based programming model, while also providing flexibility for custom coding. Salesforce prereleased Lightning Web Components in December 2018. The vendor said the product will be generally available in February.

"Lightning Web Components stays in the space of custom coding, but also finds a way to accelerate that with the standard-based JavaScript model -- and that's significant," Dayaratna said.

The shift toward standardization

When Salesforce began considering a programming model and ultimately created Aura, the programming community was more scattered than today. Now, as JavaScript has separated itself from other programming languages, software vendors like Salesforce are trying to make it easier for users to develop on their platforms.

"Five years ago, JavaScript was changing the dynamic of the developer landscape, but there were still performance challenges and a lack of interoperability," said Jacob Lehrbaum, vice president of admin developer relations at Salesforce. "Fast-forward the last five years, and there's been this move toward standardization."

By building Lightning Web Components with a standard JavaScript model, using the common coding language allows for easy application building, with time-saving drag-and-drop tools that can be used immediately -- enabling developers to reuse code across apps. And while most developers can learn a new programming language like Aura, eliminating that need can make a developer's job easier.

"Developers with a JavaScript background could learn a new framework," Lehrbaum said. "But it also created fragmentation. By implementing a standard-based approach, it reduces that learning curve."

A JavaScript-based programming model for Salesforce's Lightning App Builder.
By adding a standard JavaScript model to its Lightning Platform, Salesforce is trying to ease developers' tasks in designing apps on the Lightning App Builder.

Trying to make programming easier on Salesforce

Lightning Web Components stays in the space of custom coding, but also finds a way to accelerate that with the standard-based JavaScript model -- and that's significant.
Arnal Dayaratnaresearch director, IDC

Lightning Web Components is part of the larger Lightning Platform, Salesforce's modern app development framework, which was released in 2014.

In addition to Lightning Web Components, the multicomponent platform also includes Lightning App Builder for building and designing applications; Lightning Data Service, which gives developers access to their Salesforce data and metadata inside JavaScript; Lightning Locker, which provides security for the code; and Base Lightning Components, a library of more than 70 programming building blocks that accelerate app development.

Lightning Web Components still allows users to program using Aura, and any Aura-built apps will run natively along with any JavaScript-built apps.

"We have this programming world with variations of JavaScript, and Salesforce is intervening in that trend and going back to basic standards," Dayaratna said. "This helps JavaScript developers in the sense they can quickly learn the platform Salesforce is providing."

Lightning Web Components comes free with a Lightning Platform license, according to Salesforce.

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