What is a user script, anyway?

Mtl3p and Hugh of dose got into a bit of discussion about my semi-automated CommentBlogging user script in the comments on mtl3p's post, interspersed by some general skepticism about or even animosity towards Firefox and Greasemonkey.

There is little need for fearing the proprietarism of the technology, though; while I don't think any other browser has taken user script handling usability as far as does Greasemonkey in Firefox, both Internet Explorer and Opera also handle them, natively in Opera's case and with Reify's extension Turnabout for IE. User javascript was actually first implemented in Opera, which still has the technological advantage.

This came in Opera 8, and was the next logical step in improving the Opera browsing experience, by making it possible for the Opera engineers to have their baby properly handle even the most broken and explicitly browser incompatibile of pages "just as well as Internet Explorer does", as the typical unsuspecting end user would call it when some loonie has made a web, sorry, Internet Explorer page. Anyway, Opera added a whole aspect oriented subsystem to invoke javascript code to do any amount needed of wizardry, to any web page, rewriting the world to fit the page's conceptions, or the other way around. Heck, if Microsoft can rewrite their pages to break Opera, Opera can rewrite Microsoft's pages to work, even when they standards defyingly assume an Internet Explorer world, the clever Scandinavian engieers at Opera reasoned.

Some time later, Greasemonkey came around and turned the idea into a playground for doing page modifications, building another web of the present web, and doing it in a style easily shared with friends. Inspired by Greasemonkey, Reify came around and did their own take on the concept, improving on some aspects, not going as far in some. So, again, just as we are used to on the web from the old bad days of competing browsers, we have a field of a few players, all doing their thing, a bit differently, prior to any emerging standards. This time around it isn't a battlefield, though, it's just somewhat immature technology that has yet to find standardization and cross browser portability.

I'm eager to see that happening, and am interested in any feedback, in particular developer feedback, about my own user scripts and how they work or break when run in other environments that I don't use myself, and why they do, or how they ought to do to work better. To find best practices, we need to unite, exchanging experiences and spreading them, so others can learn from them and better scripts useful to more people, regardless of browser preferences, will come out of it in the end.

The userscripts.org community features 2,400 user scripts today, most of which were probably written for (and using) Greasemonkey. A similar community for the Opera user Javascript community is called userjs.org, and features 100 scripts. As far as I know, Reify has no similar following, but emulate and extend the Greasemonkey model hoping to remain compatible. The numbers above probably more reflect the ease of user script installation in Greasemonkey than anything else; it's "right click and pick install", versus "turn on a browser option, specify a directory, find that directory and save each user script there" in Opera. I'm afraid I don't remember how Turnabout does it.
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