The take-up of JavaScript could be boosted by the establishment of a non-profit project to foster growth of the language. That's the view of John Resig, the founder of jQuery, a project aimed at simplifying the writing JavaScript for interactive web pages.

jQuery is a library of tested JavaScript that has been edited to make it simpler. It saves developers time from having to write their own JavaScript, which can require time-consuming work to ensure that it runs across different platforms and browsers.

The status of a non-profit foundation would allow software companies get a tax write-off if they let employees work on jQuery, said Resig, who is also Mozilla's JavaScript evangelist.

Large companies such as IBM and Google often allow their developers to work on open-source projects, to derive the benefit of influencing the projects.

Also part of the project is jQuery UI (User Interface), a library of components built on jQuery. jQuery UI is composed of a lot of the fun elements associated with Web 2.0, such as drag-and-drop features and widgets.

Those are components that companies want on their web pages but would normally have to pay to develop. But jQuery is open source, so it's free to use. As a result, companies are hiring people to work in part on jQuery and jQuery UI, since "we are now solving real problems for them," Resig said.

Only one person works full time on jQuery UI, and about 20 to 25 volunteers work on the whole jQuery project. The project is funded mostly by donations, which has been occasionally used to invest in code development. A top-notch German developer was hired to do specific work on jQuery UI, and the project paid him with a laptop, Resig said.

jQuery's popularity has surged since the project started around January 2006: Google and Amazon.com are now using it for their web pages, Resig said. While it's difficult to gauge, Resig estimates about 200,000 people are using jQuery code.

But the benefits of simpler JavaScript trickle down to novice website programmers.

"We have a number of people who use jQuery who have never programmed ever, let alone JavaScript," Resig said. "There are people who come from design backgrounds or business backgrounds and they just want to get something done. They're able to create something interactive now, out of nothing."

jQuery UI was just released last month, so developers are trying to fix stability problems, Resig said. JavaScript is trickier than PHP or Java, Resig said, as every time a software vendor updates a browser, it can potentially put kinks in the JavaScript running on the page - especially if the browser has a problem.

"We're at the mercy of browser bugs," Resig said.

So Resig is establishing a programme where users can test jQuery UI components on a special web page and report back detailed problems. In the long run, users will get more stable components and developers benefit from broader testing.

"We need user feedback," Resig said. "It has been hard for us to quantify when things go wrong."