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Microsoft releases JavaScript alternative

TypeScript embraces and extends JavaScript, but is open source

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Microsoft has released a new JavaScript development environment, dubbed TypeScript, and says it is designed to help developers write more complex apps with the popular scripting language.

Long-time Reg readers may recall that Microsoft has form giving the world new technologies, but not always for altruistic reasons. During its epic antitrust battle with the US Department of Justice, Microsoft's in-house use of the terms “embrace and extend” or “embrace and smother” came to light to describe the practice of releasing non-standard products, among them software development tools, then using Microsoft's market share to none-too-gently steer the industry towards buying those products to the detriment of competitors.

That strategy seems not to be in play this time, as TypeScript is free, open source and compiles into garden-variety JavaScript that Microsoft has taken pains to state repeatedly will run on any browser, host or operating system.

TypeScript is also being pitched as a developer's saviour, as by extending JavaScript developers will have more and more potent tools to build the kind of large-scale apps being built around HTML 5 in the browser and on mobile devices. Apps destined for the Windows 8 store are also cited as worthy of the more robust environment TypeScript is said to afford.

In a video posted to introduce the language (and embedded below), Microsoft Technical Fellow Anders Hejlsberg argues that TypeScript is needed because JavaScript was never intended for the roles it has found itself serving today and lacks many of the structures developers find useful in other languages. TypeScript is designed to add those extra bits, with static typing and classes at the top of Hejlsberg's list of developer desirables.

Existing JavaScript code and libraries work in TypeScript, and Microsoft has arranged TypeScript support for Emacs, Vim and Sublime Text. A TypeScript editor plugin for Visual Studio 2012 has also been released. Code samples are already available, too.

Initial response to TypeScript has tended towards the positive. While a few narky comments have appeared on Microsoft's announcement post, Twitter sentiment seems broadly happy about the new language. Your own opinions can, of course, be recorded below. ®

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