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Co-founders Jonathan Sharp & Mike Hostetler tell the appendTo story

July 23, 2010 by

“It’s actually kind of fun looking back,” former freelance developer Jonathan Sharp remarked. “When I was first starting [Out West Media], I believe you asked me, ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ I was like, ‘Same thing.’”

One year later, some things are still the same: Jonathan still lives in Plattsmouth, Nebraska, he still enjoys owning and riding horses, he still dons a cowboy hat from time and time, and he still dedicates time to the jQuery project.

But it’s that latter trait that’s also brought change into his career. “Freelancing was a lot of fun, but this is something that’s on a whole ‘nother scale,” Sharp said.

That something he’s referring to was the co-founding and becoming president of appendTo, “The jQuery Company,” late last year.

“There are a series of needs that a large enterprise has in bringing a product in, and since jQuery’s open source and there really isn’t a formal business entity surrounding it, we really saw an opportunity there,” Sharp explained.

AppendTo’s co-founder and CEO, Mike Hostetler of Denver, summarized open source in my recent interview with him and Sharp. “[With] open source, you give and open the source code to as many people as possible so they can fix and tweak anything in the code if they have that skill – this allows for rapid increase as the barrier to change something is very low.”

That rapid increase in development is evident with jQuery. According to Hostetler, of the JavaScript libraries available, jQuery holds the top spot with around 32 percent of the top 10,000 websites.

Hostetler expanded on jQuery, “In a typical website you have three computer languages that are used to put a website together. You have HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and jQuery makes JavaScript easier to use, write and build interactive websites.”

With its attractive description, jQuery has caught the eye of many IT department heads within major corporations, but before they’ll adopt its use, they look for a support company they can rely on if anything goes wrong.

In addition to filling that support company void, appendTo has created revenue streams though training courses and consulting. And business is good. With less than a year under their belt, they’ve grown from two co-founders to 10 total team members dispersed across eight cities and two countries. With the recent addition of Andrew Wirick as the company’s senior trainer / developer, two of those employees call the Omaha area home.

Other recent additions to the team include Scott Gonzalez from the jQuery User Interface team and Leah Silber from Engine Yard, a Ruby on Rails support company.

Another notable individual associated with appendTo is jQuery creator John Resig (left, photo by MIXEvent via Flickr), who joined the company’s board of advisors last December. Resig’s is also the lead developer of jQuery.

Sharp and Hostetler call Resig a good friend, as well, and continue to work closely with him and others on the jQuery core team. “We actively participate in the jQuery forums,” Hostetler said. “We’re here to really help jQuery itself succeed. That is a big part of what we spend time on.”

Jonathan adopted jQuery’s use while working for Omaha-based Union Pacific in March 2006, at which point the JavaScript library was a mere four months old. In 2008, he was nominated to the jQuery core team.

Hostetler became involved with jQuery in 2007 when he volunteered by writing a few plugins and then building the first plugin site, plugins.jquery.com. From there, he was nominated to the project’s infrastructure team – when he started, they had one web server that ran all the jQuery sites, now they have more than 15 – and most recently he became a member of the operations team, dealing with business issues and planning events.

When combining Sharp and Hostetler’s business savvy, technical know-how, and speaking skills – the two were recently on stage together at OSCON 2010, The O’Reilly Open Source Convention – with the talents of the team members they continue to add, appendTo is set for success. And with that, the jQuery JavaScript library will continue to flourish.

“As a community, we have some very cool things planned in how we’re going to release our tools and how we’re going to help educate the community more with the knowledge that we’re pulling in,” Hostetler said. “We want to share it out and we want to have everybody benefit.”

And with two Omahans on the team, we’ll be sure to keep in touch with their progress. Who knows what Sharp will accomplish one year from now.

Here are highlights from my interview with Sharp and Hostetler. Hear more about jQuery and open source, their first client, AOL, and what technology trends they’ll be paying attention to in the coming years. When watching, be sure to keep in mind when they refer to the “jQuery team” they’re speaking about the jQuery core team.



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