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Developing Backbone.js Applications by Adnan Osmani

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Not so long ago, data-rich web application was an oxymoron. Today, these applications are everywhere, and you need to know how to build them.

Traditionally, web applications left the heavy lifting of data to servers that pushed HTML to the browser in complete page loads. The use of client-side JavaScript was limited to improving the user experience. Now this relationship has been inverted—client applications pull raw data from the server and render it into the browser when and where it is needed.

Think of the Ajax shopping cart, which doesn’t require a refresh on the page when you add an item to your basket. Initially, jQuery was the go-to library for this paradigm. Its nature was to make Ajax requests, then update text on the page and so on. However, this pattern with jQuery revealed that we have implicit model data on the client side.

The rise of arbitrary code on the client side that can talk to the server however it sees fit has meant an increase in client-side complexity. Good architecture on the client side has gone from an afterthought to essential—you can’t just hack together some jQuery code and expect it to scale as your application grows. Most likely, you would end up with a nightmarish tangle of UI callbacks entwined with business logic, destined to be discarded by the poor soul who inherits your code.

Thankfully, there are a growing number of JavaScript libraries that can help improve the structure and maintainability of your code, making it easier for you to build ambitious interfaces without a great deal of effort. Backbone.js has quickly become one of the most popular open source solutions to these issues, and in this book I will walk you through it in depth.

We’ll begin with the fundamentals, work our way through the exercises, and learn how to build an application that is both cleanly organized and maintainable. If you are a developer looking to write code that can be more easily read, structured, and extended, this guide can help you.

Improving developer education is important to me, which is why this book is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license. This means you can purchase or grab a copy of the book for free or help to further improve it. Corrections to existing material are always welcome, and I hope that together we can provide the community with an up-to-date resource that is of help.

My extended thanks go out to Jeremy Ashkenas and DocumentCloud for creating Backbone.js and several members of the community for their assistance making this project far better than I could have imagined.

Target Audience

This book is targeted at novice to intermediate developers wishing to learn how to better structure their client-side code. An understanding of JavaScript fundamentals is required to get the most out of it; however, I have tried to provide a basic description of these concepts where possible.


None of this work would have been possible without the time and effort invested by the other developers and authors in the community who helped contribute to it. I would like to extend my thanks to:

as well as our other excellent contributors who made this project possible.


I assume your level of knowledge about JavaScript goes beyond the basics; thus, certain topics, such as object literals, are skipped. If you need to learn more about the language, I am happy to suggest:

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Using Code Examples

This book is here to help you get your job done. In general, if this book includes code examples, you may use the code in your programs and documentation. You do not need to contact us for permission unless you’re reproducing a significant portion of the code. For example, writing a program that uses several chunks of code from this book does not require permission. Selling or distributing a CD-ROM of examples from O’Reilly books does require permission. Answering a question by citing this book and quoting example code does not require permission. Incorporating a significant amount of example code from this book into your product’s documentation does require permission.

We appreciate, but do not require, attribution. An attribution usually includes the title, author, publisher, and ISBN. For example: “Developing Backbone.js Applications by Adnan Osmani (O’Reilly). Copyright 2013 Addy Osmani, 978-1-449-32825-2.”

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I am indebted to the technical reviewers whose fantastic work helped improve this book. Their knowledge, energy, and passion have helped shape it into a better learning resource, and they continue to serve as a source of inspiration. Thanks go out to:

I would also like to thank my loving family for their patience and support while I worked on this book, as well as my brilliant editor, Mary Treseler.

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