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Bringing Back the 1990s: The Revenge of JavaScript Style Sheets

Steve Kinney · Full Stack Fest 2017

JavaScript Style Sheets (JSSS) was a technology introduced by Netscape in 1996. Chances are, you’ve never heard of JSSS, since it was available in Netscape Communicator 4.0. They allowed you to define custom styling rules for your web pages. You’re probably more familiar with its competitor at the time—Cascading Style Sheets. JavaScript Style Sheets were pretty cool, though. JSSS allowed the developer to use the full weight of the language, including functions and conditionals to style the DOM. You could use variables and conditionals. You could calculate values dynamically. You had the weight and power of the JavaScript programming language at your disposal.

The obvious spoiler alert here is that CSS won and JSSS lost, right? It’s not that simple. A lot of the ideas from JSSS have slowly been creeping back into our toolset. SASS brought a lot of programming logic back into styling our applications. CSS has even picked up variables and the ability to do calculations along the way. Finally, the React community has been—maybe unknowingly—bringing JSSS back from the dead. In this talk, we’ll take a good hard look at JSSS and discuss what it got right and wrong, why CSS won, and the ways in which JSSS has had enduring legacy after its untimely demise.