Lecture 12: JavaScript - November 11th, 2008

My laziness continues:

I haven't graded your HW from last week yet!

Office hours -- move to Thursday night, 9-11pm.

HW due Friday 5pm.

Sessions & session cookies

User cookies are under user control!

With our current implementation, users can simply change their cookies to gain access to another person's account.

How to prevent this?

Hash the user info into a big space of strings that is both sparse and too big to search effectively (=> 'session identifier')

Then keep a record of what session identifier matches to what user.

(What are the security flaws inherent in this model...? Eavesdropping, for one.)

Loading the IMDB

For scripts that take a long time:

  • try removing the database calls
  • put in progress indicators
  • 'commit' may take a long time (-> disk access)


Good JS tutorial: http://www.w3schools.com/js/default.asp

JavaScript != Java. In fact, they're completely different.

JavaScript == ECMAScript.

JavaScript adds "behavior" to Web pages:

  • dynamic text
  • events
  • data validation
  • cookie creation

Object oriented, dynamic, in-browser scripting language.


<script type="text/javascript">
document.write("Hello World!");


JS factoids:

Dynamic. Interpreted.


Return of the semicolons!!

Return of the squigglies: { } used to denote blocks

// - C++ like comments /* */ - C like comments

Loosely typed:

var x

is now a variable.

No need to declare a variable, either. (But it's "good practice")

C-like operators (addition, subtraction, etc.) and comparisons (<, >, ==).

Logical operators are also C like -- "||", "&&"

Strings + numbers => strings.

Return of the round brackets:

if (condition) { block to be executed }

Object-oriented, but in a weird way: "bag of properties" with methods!

function some_function(...) {
   ... can reference 'this.foo' ...

function SomeClass(param1) {
   this.foo = param1;
   this.method = some_function;

var some_object = new SomeClass("fib");


(Can do 'for (property in object)' to iterate over properties, incl method)

Function declaration:

function name(var1, var2, ...) { block }

For loops as in C: for (var = starval; var < endval; var = var + inc) { }

While: while (condition) { ... }

do-while: do { ... } while (condition);


for-in: for (variable in object) { ... } - loops through array, or properties of an object.

JS properties on HTML elements:

onload and onUnload
onFocus, onBlur
onMouseOver and onMouseOut


try { ... } catch (x) { ... use x ... }

throw can throw any type of object, which can then be caught & used.

Object model

  • properties
  • methods


useful classes: String, Date, Array, Boolean, Math, RegExp

Accessing the Document Object Model (DOM):

 function change_title() {
     var x = document.getElementById("my_input");
     document.write('my value is ' + x.value);
     document.title = x.value;

document.write("The title is: " + document.title + "<p>");


New title: <input type="text" id='my_input'>
<input type="submit" value='change title' onclick='change_title()' >


Practical issues

JS code in <head> of document guaranteed to be executed before anything in <body>.

Can load scripts from elsewhere:

<script src='hello.js'></script>

JavaScript security:


Running arbitrary programs written by other people on your local computer is dangerous (duh).

For example, JS could redirect your page to your bank's login page, intercept your username and password and send them to someone else while logging you into your bank site, and then unload itself. Yay, your bank account for everyone!

(I'm not kidding.)

No access to local file systems, user data, or network capabilities, either. (Exception to this discussed next week, "AJAX")

"Same-Origin policy" - scripts loaded from one Web site cannot access data from pages loaded from another Web site.

var w = window.open("http://www.google.com");

// Now wait a while, hoping they'll start using the newly opened window.
// After 10 seconds, let's try to see what URL they're looking at!

var snoopedURL;
setTimeout("snoopedURL = w.location.href)", 10 * 1000);

(Can still reference external scripts, which will come in handy next week.)

What about "site farms", e.g. the CSE user accounts? Yes, 'www.cse.msu.edu' counts as the same site, so my Web page vs your Web page can do nasty things to each other.

Also, cross-site scripting (XSS) becomes an interesting problem... examples in a few weeks.

Can also bomb browsers:

  • infinite loops
  • memory hog
  • infinite recursion of frame elements
  • annoyances! (popup windows, etc.)

This is why Google Chrome runs browser tabs in different processes!


(Taken without apology from: http://www.phonk.net/Gedachten/JavaScript)

JS can make Web pages and forms behave very differently from user expectations. One of the big reasons that the Web was adopted so quickly is that the user interface is relatively straightforward and simple; JS can change that. It also means that in order to write an interesting Web site you need to become a UI designer, too, and frankly most programmers suck at UI design.

Content generation via JS can make it more difficult to "reduce" Web pages into searchable archives of information.

Scripting JS-heavy Web pages gets quite ugly, as you'll see with Selenium next week.

Tying behavior into the browser so closely makes it difficult to build browser-neutral and platform-neutral sites (think mobile phones). The solution seems to be to build bigger & more powerful cell phones :)

It's easy to hack stuff together in JS, but to build anything big requires Real Programming.

JavaScript security is always something to think about.


JS removes (or, with AJAX, reduces) the latency inherent in having to do a page request to a remote server by putting the behavior on the page.

It's the only cross-platform cross-browser solution to doing this, and (unlike Flash) it's also open source, so you can go reverse-engineer other people's Web pages. (Definitely good for the growth of the Web!)

You guys already know how to program, so the Real Programming requirement isn't a problem for you.