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Adobe CTO calls for JavaScript coordination

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Adobe MAX Adobe Systems' chief technology officer has placed his faith standards bodies to help overcome Balkanization in an important web technology, despite losing a recent round of vendor combat.

Kevin Lynch said at MAX that Adobe would continue participation in bodies like ECMA, even though they aren't moving as fast as his company would clearly like.

He noted technologies like ECMAScript are moving too fast to be nailed down as completed specifications.

Lynch was speaking after he'd told press it would help the web if there were "better coordination and leadership" between different technical teams from Apple, Google, and Mozilla. Each is working on their own JavaScript engines, and each is clocking different speeds.

Adobe's next version of AIR will use WebKit's core SquirrelFish JavaScript interpreter, despite the fact Adobe contributed is Tamarin alternative to Mozilla less than a year ago.

"All have excellent technical teams and it's nice to have peer pressure between the implementations to be the best," Lynch said. "For the web, it would be better if we got these folks together and develop a common implementation. We have another fragmented solution."

Lynch indicated he didn't have the time needed to lead this, but he said Adobe is very active in standards bodies on scripting, pointing to work with ECMA on ECMAScript - used in JavaScript.

And therein lies the rub.

Not only can standards bodies be too slow for companies like Adobe, they don't always go the way they want them too.

ECMA in August decided to abandon plans for a radical rewrite of ECMAScript that would have created version 4 for an evolution to version 3.1 instead, following lobbying by Microsoft. The real problem for Adobe was it had based ActionScript - which underpins its Flash Player - on ECMAScript 4. Tamarin, incidentally, was based on source code from the ActionScript virtual machine.

"It can be difficult to get rapid innovation in standards bodies," Lynch said. "We are going to continue participating. We are going to do so in a way that factors in the other voices."

Lynch said you could standardize "mature" technologies such as Adobe's PDF, which is an ISO standard. But: "ECMAScript is still moving pretty quickly, so it's harder to nail down." ®

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