Client-side scripting generally refers to the class of computer programs on the web that are executed client-side, by the user's web browser, instead of server-side (on the web server). This type of computer programming is an important part of the Dynamic HTML (DHTML) concept, enabling web pages to be scripted; that is, to have different and changing content depending on user input, environmental conditions (such as the time of day), or other variables.
Client-side scripts are often embedded within an HTML or XHTML document (hence known as an "embedded script"), but they may also be contained in a separate file, to which the document (or documents) that use it make reference (hence known as an "external script"). Upon request, the necessary files are sent to the user's computer by the web server (or servers) on which they reside. The user's web browser executes the script, then displays the document, including any visible output from the script. Client-side scripts may also contain instructions for the browser to follow in response to certain user actions, (e.g., clicking a button). Often, these instructions can be followed without further communication with the server. Balancing the execution between client and server scripts is used to minimize the communication load, server load and/or response time.
By viewing the file that contains the script, users may be able to see its source code. Many web authors learn how to write client-side scripts partly by examining the source code for other authors' scripts.
Server-side scripts require that their language's interpreter be installed on the server, and produce the same output regardless of the client's browser, operating system, or other system details. Client-side scripts do not require additional software on the server (making them popular with authors who lack administrative access to their servers); however, they do require that the user's web browser understands the scripting language in which they are written. It is therefore impractical for an author to write scripts in a language that is not supported by popular web browsers.
Due to security restrictions, client-side scripts may not be allowed to access the user's computer beyond the web browser application. Techniques like ActiveX controls can be used to sidestep this restriction.
Client-side scripting is not inherently unsafe. Users, though, are encouraged to always keep their web browsers up-to-date to avoid exposing their computer and data to new vulnerabilities. Some users disable script execution because of fear of exploits or to pursue faster browser experience, thus limiting the usefulness of this scripting technique.
Unfortunately, even languages that are supported by a wide variety of browsers may not be implemented in precisely the same way across all browsers versions and operating systems. Authors are well-advised to review the behaviour of their client-side scripts on a variety of platforms before they put them into use.
An especially easy to learn and use example is iMacros. Another increasingly popular use is the augmented browsing that gives the user more control over how web content is displayed to him. See Greasemonkey for a popular extension.
- Client-side Scripting and HTML. W3.org. Retrieved on 2012-09-11.
- "Web technology survey: Usage of server-side programming languages for websites". W3Techs.com. Retrieved 9 December 2013.