Hello World! AppJet Opens Browser-Based JavaScript School

AppJet, the Y Combinator-funded startup that lets users build web applications from their browsers, has opened a new set of lessons that guide novice users through the basics of programming. The lessons focus on JavaScript, one of the world’s most popular programming languages, and have been written to be accessible to students who have never programmed before.

Co-Founder Aaron Iba says that the lessons will likely take a new programmer a few weeks to work through at a moderate pace, depending on how much time is spent on the interactive demos (each lesson provides a fully functional program that can be modified). There are currently 24 lessons available, with more on the way. After skimming through the first few lessons, I managed to put together a program slightly more complex than “Hello world!”, which you can find here.

This online school is significant because it offers a very low barrier to entry for novices who are looking to get their feet wet and start programming. Nearly every programming tutorial requires some kind of software prerequisite, be it a downloaded client or a server, which can be both expensive and difficult to set up for a new user. Conversely, AppJet requires no software, allowing users to edit, debug, and run code through a browser interface. Because of this low barrier, AppJet may well see an influx of new students who they can convert to regular members.

Besides the lessons launching today, AppJet offers web developers a way to create and host web applications free of charge. The site appeals primarily to users in the long tail, who may not want to spend money on a web server just to host a number of small applications that are only accessed once in a while. Iba says that since its launch in December, AppJet has seen over 1900 applications published, with another 4000 under development (though many of these will likely never be completed).