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  Hide Thy JavaScript
Location: BlogsWizard Wisdom    
Posted by: David Gray 1/23/2007

Recent work on ASP.NET applications prompted me to think more seriously about devising a way to hide JavaScript code from snoops, such as other programmers, and search engine spiders. Since I had to modify some JavaScript code on a production Web site today, I took the opportunity to test a theory that is inspired by the "code behind" documents generated by Visual Web Developer 2005. The page in question is a property tax proration calculator, that was contained entirely within a page, prorator.html, including the JavaScript code that validates the input fields and does the math.

Why Was I Concerned?

The code in question contains three statements, located at the top, outside the scope of any JavaScript function. These three statements create and initialize a trio of lookup tables used by the functions to validate input and to prorate the property tax between a buyer and a seller. When the script is inline, these three statements execute, and the tables, having global scope, are available for use by the JavaScript functions that follow.

How Did I Do It?

Quite simply, like so:

  1. I moved all the code to a new file, prorator.js.
  2. In its place, I added the following to the HEAD section of the HTML page .

<script language="javascript" src="prorator.js"></script>

That's all there is to it!

What Happens Now?

When the page loads, the script code is returned to the visitor's Web browser. Since the SRC attribute of the SCRIPT tag acts like any other hypertext reference, the code behaves as it did when it was part of the page, and since it is within the scope of a SCRIPT tag, the code that lies outside the functions executes when the file loads, just as it did, so the lookup tables that the functions need are ready to go.

What Are the Benefits?

This simple change has two huge benefits.

  1. The code is already more secure, because a casual browser can neither steal the code for his own use, nor maliciously alter it, then claim that our code was defective.
  2. By placing the code outside the page, the text that we want searched and indexed by Google and other search engines moves to the top of the page, thus increasing its relevance index.

What's Next?

Obviously, I intend to apply this technique to several other pages that I maintain that contain code in them. First up is the home page of a marketing Web site that went live in November 2006. That page contains two huge tables that are used to pre-load a set of images, used in a slide show that is one of its key visual features.

Beyond that, the next step is to move the JavaScript files into a separate directly, where I can apply more sophisticated access controls, using techniques that recently came to my attention in another context, so that they can't be stolen by programmers who are too lazy to do the work, themselves, and who can't be bothered with asking permission.



Copyright ©2007 David Gray
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