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JavaScript shogun deflects Google's mid-air Dart attack

Wirfs-Brock preaches Harmony

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QCon 2012 Google might be pressing on solo with JavaScript-killer Dart, but those backing JS reckon their language - while not perfect - will thrive for another 25 years.

Allen Wirfs-Brock, editor of the ECMAScript 5 standard, thinks JavaScript will expand beyond its web stronghold, thanks to the use of browsers to run apps in a dawning post-PC era.

"Look at the role JavaScript has in the web application platform: it's far from perfect, but it's getting the job done, and think about what it would take to replace JavaScript?" Wirfs-Brock said at QCon London 2012. "JavaScript is there; it's not clear how anything else can take its place."

There is, of course, the small matter of Google's Dart, a blended combination of JavaScript and Scala unveiled by the ads'n'search giant in October 2011. Dart is supposedly a language for the web that's capable of overcoming the limitations and shortcomings of JavaScript and building a better internet.

Unlike many new languages that are born and quickly die or fade into obscurity, Dart is alive. Test versions of Chromium, the open-source browser that feeds into Google's Chrome, appeared in February featuring a Dart Virtual Machine capable of running programs built using the language.

Until now, Dart had converted code to JavaScript to run in existing Javascript VMs in the browser. Not anymore. "Over time, these programs will take advantage of the VM's faster performance and lower startup latency," the Chromium blog said here.

Google has come up with Dart because it thinks JavaScript suffers from "fundamental flaws"; its goal is to make Dart the lingua franca of web development. Google's got a particular problem with the lack of clear and consistent tools, libraries and frameworks for JavaScript, things that tend to hinder the construction of large-scale apps beloved of Google.

When it comes to selling Dart, Google's working both sides of the street. As a member of Brock's ECMA technical committee TC39, Google is playing the good citizen by helping to develop JavaScript, but it also wants to convince fellow browser makers that they should stick Dart in.

"What browser manufacturers have you heard show interest in Dart," Wirfs-Brock asked The Reg slipping in to rhetorical-question mode at QCon. Er, nobody.

Darts thrown

In fact, Dart in Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari would be a major technology coup; Chrome is the biggest and arguably strongest growing rival to browsers from Microsoft, Mozilla and Apple both on terms of project roadmap. Such an inclusion would show technology leadership by Google in an important and sensitive area of web development and performance. Microsoft's only just come around to full HTML.

"What would it take to motivate all the major browser implementations to implement Dart in timely enough manor to have any impact," Wirfs-Brock continued.

Google does have scale on its size. It has a browser that's at least growing, unlike others, and it's the owner of influential web real estate from ads and search to email, docs and video. Arguably, all Google needs to do is sit still and let the web come to it.

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Next page: Sweet harmony

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