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PayPal lures JavaScript bigwig Crockford from Yahoo

The man behind a widely used technique for making Web pages interactive is now working for eBay's online payment division.

Douglas Crockford's Google+ profile shows his new PayPal job.
Douglas Crockford's Google+ profile shows his new PayPal job. screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Douglas Crockford, a power of the JavaScript world, has moved from Yahoo to PayPal.

Bill Scott, PayPal's senior director of user interface engineering, announced the new hire Saturday, and Crockford's Google+ page confirms the change.

Yahoo is losing only a single person among thousands of employees, but you can bet he's not one they like to see go. Crockford is a high-profile speaker in the tech world, a strong ally for the Yahoo User Interface (YUI) library of JavaScript tools, and a person who brings engineering cred.

Crockford is perhaps best known for an important role in the creation of JavaScript Object Notation (JSON, pronounced "Jason), a technology for packaging data so it can be sent from one computing device to another. A seminal use is letting Web servers and Web browsers communicate, an idea useful for building dynamic, interactive sites.

"JSON is the world's best-loved data interchange format," Crockford said in an video interview with the IEEE's Computer magazine published in March. "I discovered it in 2001. I don't claim to have invented it, because it already existed in nature."

An illustration of how JSON can handle a decimal number

When he encountered others' reluctance to use JSON because it wasn't a standard, he decided to take care of the problem: "I bought, put up a Web page, and sort of declared, 'It's a standard.' That's it. I didn't go around trying to convince industry and government that's what they should do. I just put up a one-page Web site, and over the years, people discovered it."

He describes one advantage of JSON over an alternative, XML (Extensible Markup Language), that was the subject of much hype in years past. But to Crockford, XML data sent from a server is hampered by the fact that it must be processed to be useful. "Why can't you just give it to me in a form where I know what it is and I can use it immediately? That was the main benefit of JSON."

Crockford also wrote JSLint, which checks JavaScript code quality ("Warning! JSLint will hurt your feelings") and JSMin, which squeezes JavaScript programs so Web pages load faster.