AppJet Kicks Off at MIT’s Splash

This weekend was the first time we let real users play with AppJet software. MIT has an annual event called Splash, where thousands of high-school students come to MIT for a weekend to take short classes on hundreds of different topics, taught by the MIT community.

We taught a beginner course on web app programming using AppJet. The goal of AppJet is to make programming web apps easier, so we figured if high school students could use it, then we were doing a pretty good job.

Side note: AppJet is not just for beginners. Easy does not imply power-limited. For instance, JavaScript is easy to learn, and with its higher-order functions and lexical closures, it’s a pretty advanced language.

150 students signed up for our class. We gave them the AppJet basics and then let them go and build apps. I was very impressed with the programs they came up with.

First came the kind of apps you would expect high school students to start with.

Then things got more interesting when they experimented with dynamic content.

Next blossomed a genre of question/answer apps.

And a genre of discussion-board apps.

One particularly impressive program was a simple yet useful app that puts Google in an iframe and lets you take notes on your searches, store them persistently, and organize them:

You might notice that many of the above apps are similar to one another. That is because the source code to an AppJet app is public, and you can easily “clone” an app to create a derivative work. In fact, we keep track of the entire family tree of apps: every new apps starts as the clone of an existing one, with the exception of hello-world, which was the first.

All in all, we have over 400 apps running on our system after the weekend. Granted, most of them are only slight modifications to hello-world and receive very little traffic, but we think this release is a major first step toward making it easier to get a web app online.

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