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I just read Beating the Averages, and Mr. Graham writes that they had a significant advantage over competitors because they used Lisp.

From what I understand, Viaweb was a WYSIWYG editor that ran in the browser for customers to create their own 'stores'. This is obviously inconceivable now to do without JavaScript, yet there is no talk of it at all on this article. Mr. Graham only talks about Lisp and nothing else.

So is (was?) it somehow possible to bypass JavaScript and use Lisp for the front and back ends?

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Why does this question get downvotes? It seems a perfectly reasonable question to me. – Giorgio Dec 24 '12 at 13:33
Beating the averages is a spectacular essay and grand showcase of Graham's skills as an evangelist. Try not to take it too seriously (or too lightly). The biggest takeaway from it is that knowing different languages is invaluable and meta-programming can be an extremely powerful tool. Though beyond that I suggest a touch of skepticism about Graham (who is a far better dev than I) and his grandiose claims. – Jimmy Hoffa Dec 24 '12 at 17:01
"Mr. Graham only talks about Lisp and nothing else.": The software was running completely on their server and the competitor language were Perl and C++. – Giorgio Dec 25 '12 at 0:01
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Javascript wasn't widely used at the time. Viaweb was launched in 1995. JavaScript was only released in 1994 and was not in Internet Explorer until 1996. iframes didn't appear until 1996 and XMLHTTP request didn't show up for the first time until 1998, and not in browsers until later, so there was no AJAX when Viaweb was written. It's likely that they did without a client-side scripting language and reloaded the whole page whenever anything was done.

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I agree with you: I do not think that viaweb was interactive in the sense today's web applications are interactive. As far as I can imagine, each interaction involved submitting a form to the server and getting the new page sent by the server. – Giorgio Dec 24 '12 at 13:33
Probably one big advantage was using Lisp instead of another language like C++ or PHP to program the business logic (through DSL's ?) and the rendering of the pages. – Giorgio Dec 24 '12 at 13:35
Okay, so it was simply not as interactive as I imagined it. Thanks... – Aditya M P Dec 25 '12 at 1:00

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