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Erik Meijer, Dave Thomas and Pratap Lakshman: Perspectives on JavaScript and Language Design

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JavaScript is a language that appears to have a long lifespan given its ubiquity on the web. It pretty much powers the client-side in-page execution of hundreds of millions of web pages. As a language, well, it's cool and strange at the same time. It's not evolved much over the years and is the topic of hot debate in the halls of the web standards committee. At any rate, a few people who know a thing or two about dynamic languages joined me in a conversation to address JavaScript and dynamic languages for the web, generally. The great Dave Thomas and fundamentalist functional languages high priest Erik Meijer sit down with Microsoft JScript Program Manager Pratap Lakshman and
myself to converse on JavaScript the language and virtual machine. Of course, as you can imagine, the conversation winds effortlesssly into various geeky tangents.

This is the second year I've been lucky enough to take part in the cross-platform software engineering conference
JAOO. Like last year, I was very fortunate to get to sit down with a few key players in the programming languages design field and watch several technical presentations that span the industry and problems we face as software developers. One of the truly great things about JAOO is that it is not a product-focused conference: it's about programming first and foremost and enables the sharing of perspectives and ideas among the world's best and brightest programming minds. As you can imagine, I, like many technical types here at Microsoft, am a huge fan of JAOO. Thank you Trifork!!!

Enjoy!

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  • Maddus MattusMaddus Mattus Maddus on C9, Is often ​controversi​al, But fun ​none-the-​less -​evildictait​or
    Excellent interview!

    I got 'forced' into writing javascript in combination with the new Ajax Enabled WCF Services. And I am starting to like it. You can write really neat scripts if you use the base Ajax libraries and use some javascript patterns.

    jQuery is my new LINQ.

    And it's awesome to see Erik again!

    Greetings from Holland Erik Wink
  • Pratap said classes are syntactic sugar! I hope he said it in the context of JavaScript...

    Good interview. Looking forward to see what MS is planning on JavaScript.
  • stevo_stevo_ Human after all
    I understand the points about having a few powerful building blocks will allow you to do 'anything', but I think theres a very naive and ignorant view in that interview that more complex languages are somewhat the worser designed.. and the points about generics was laughable.. how long did it take for people to adopt generics? people were suffucating waiting for generics to happen.. it was adopted instantly because it had such a fantastic clean advantage over previous methods..

    Not only this, simple blocks are great, but a lot of power comes from the tools, and its impossible for your tools to understand how it can effectively help you use the fancy building you just made with those powerful blocks.. and I think you'll start to get very verbose code that cannot be as effectively 'understood' by a compiler..

    Where as building a house in the language, your compiler and tools all realize '.. oh, thats a house - I can help use it because I can infer a lot for you, and I can compile this really well because I understand what the point of a house is'..

    You should also take into consideration that the boom in javascript is mainly by people who couldn't care less about it, people who just want to ajax/web2.0 up their site.. and maybe don't even care all that much about development/languages/programming/whatever.
  • stevo_stevo_ Human after all
    I'd also like to add that the inability to at least express 'threading' in javascript is probably going to be one of the limiting factors - its one of the missing 'power blocks' it could of done with.. isolation alone does't really work - thats like the appdomain, and while thats good for the big picture.. imagine the scenario now where I have a script thats job is to populate a panel with some data it receives from a ajax source.. the events the browser provides me are great, I get called when the data returns and I can update my ui.. imagine I wanted to poll for changes to that data, or I wanted to poll for some changes that were happening.. if my panel say.. animates - now when I animate my animation code has to fight with the polling that happens.. and now you start to get stuttering in the animation.. for a developer thats tough luck.. you don't have enough control.. to me, this shows where having more blocks is the better.. you don't have to use those blocks - but if they exist, and you situation requires.. that block exists for you to use.
  • Sparkywil2300 Super #
    Excellent, excellent talk! I always enjoy talks by Erik - especially when he is in a group setting. On the other hand, every time Erik opens his mouth, I end up realizing I have to go learn something new Smiley Not a bad thing but there are only so many hours in the day.

    The topics dealing with concurrency will keep popping up and it is interesting to see all the ideas being thrown out on how to deal with this potential bottleneck that is bearing down on us. I hope that some time in the future I will be able to attend JAOO myself - it just seems to be an amazing experience.
  • Excellent interview! Complicated subjects discussed in an accessible manner.

    The mischievious Dave Thomas put Erik and Pratap on the hot seat, and did not spare Soma either. I disagree with Dave on generics though.

    I liked both Erik's and Pratap's talks at JAOO.

    Is there more figuring these three?

    Leon

  • I agree that from a JavaScript perspective threads - as used in a shared-state, non-atomic sense - are not the right abstraction. With appropriate language level support it should be implementable as libraries - as can be seen here: http://www.neilmix.com/2007/02/07/threading-in-javascript-17/

    Very good interview, Charles. Keep it coming.

    Barishev Yakov.

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