Saturday, July 28, 2007

Ajax Experience Talk about Dojo XD Loader

I attended the Ajax Experience West conference this week, and gave a talk about Dojo's XD loader. It was my first time giving a talk in that venue. I got some good feedback from Naveed (from the group): I was talking a bit too fast, and didn't make enough eye contact, focusing too much on the slides. The content was good, but I could improve on the delivery. I was suspecting as much, but it was great to get the good feedback. Apparently I'll get feedback (hopefully) from the talk evaluation sheets.

It was neat talking with one of the jQuery contributors, Yehuda Katz, who has been thinking about how to handle serving jQuery plugins. They have been considering a way to load plugins, and possibly specify dependencies. They may not need the full xd dependency mapping, but it would be neat to share some ideas in that area. In the talk, I talked about trying to modify other toolkit code from YUI, Ext and jQuery plugins to load via the dojo loader. I still might try that as an experiment.

In the presentation, I talked a bit about xd loading in general, and to address the security concerns of how to verify the code you are xd loading has not been corrupted or changed. I was thinking using digests of some kind would be good. Ideally, the browser could do it before it evaluated the JS code.

I mentioned the idea to Douglas Crockford, and he had nice idea of being able to specify more than one URL for the script, to serve as backups in case there was a failure with one of the first one failed. He thought it would make a good browser plugin. The multiple URL thing also came up as a suggestion in the Q&A part of the talk, but in the context of dojo.registerModulePath().

Initially, part of the Q&A discussion was ways to do the digest checking without needing a browser plugin, but the more I think about it, it really needs to happen by the browser, since we need to do the check before the imported script is evaluated in any way. And if we are doing xd-loading of the script, that means (at least today) that a script tag is going to be used. So we need to extend the functionality of the script tag.

Looking around at the web, it seems like (as usual) these ideas have been in the air before. I went to Andreas Andreou's cross-site js sharing post, which pointed me to this group discussion. This mozilla bug was referenced, and from there, I went to Gervase Markham's Link Fingerprints page.

The Link Fingerprints seems like a workable system. Most of the discussion has been focused on sharing of library code, but it also seems to dovetail nicely with a security aspect. I might ask the group about the status of the mozilla bug and mention my desire to have it for security concerns. I'll also ask about supporting alternate backup URLs for download. Maybe as nested script tags?

If this works out, I would feel much more comfortable strongly suggesting xd loading for folks. It would result in a safer web. Very nice.

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