Feeds

Dropbox drops JavaScript, brews CoffeeScript

23,000 lines of code converted, but why?

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

Dropbox has stopped using JavaScript whenever it codes for browsers and has instead adopted CoffeeScript by re-writing 23,000 lines of code.

DropBox developers Dan W, Ziga M and Chris V explain their choice in a blog post, offering brevity of syntax as their main concern and citing the following statistics from the company's re-coding project as evidence of CoffeeScript's lesser burden for developers.

JavaScript CoffeeScript
Lines of code 23437 18417
Tokens 75334 66058
Characters 865613 659930

That 5000 fewer lines of code, the developers write, “is beneficial for simple reasons — being able to fit more code into a single editor screen, for example.”

“Measuring reduction in code complexity is of course much harder,” the coders add, “but we think the stats above, especially token count, are a good first-order approximation.”

Astute Reg readers may, at this point, wonder why it makes sense to bother replacing 23,000 lines of code when CoffeeScript compiles down into JavaScript anyway.

Indeed, while the developers feel more productive, there's no indication the site works better after the transition to the new scripting language. “The size of the compressed bundle didn’t change significantly pre- and post-coffee transformation, so our users shouldn’t notice anything different,” the trio write. “The site performs and behaves as before.”

The developers are Python-lovers, and that language is a source of inspiration for CoffeeScript's creators. The move to CoffeeScript therefore offered the chance to code in a more Python-like environment, something that's tough to do given JavaScript's slow evolution. The fact that the re-coding process took place during a week-long hackathon is another clue to the project's motivation.

There's nothing new, of course, about software re-platforming projects. Here in El Reg's antipodean eyrie we've covered (in past lives) a few aimed at extending the life of applications written in legacy languages. Those projects, however, had a commercial outcome as their rationale. It's unclear if that's the case here. ®

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

More from The Register

next story
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
Put down that Oracle database patch: It could cost $23,000 per CPU
On-by-default INMEMORY tech a boon for developers ... as long as they can afford it
Google shows off new Chrome OS look
Athena springs full-grown from Chromium project's head
Apple: We'll unleash OS X Yosemite beta on the MASSES on 24 July
Starting today, regular fanbois will be guinea pigs, it tells Reg
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.