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JavaScript is everywhere. So are we all OK with that?

Beaten, slightly battered, but now shining on the web. What’s not to like?

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Comment The JavaScript programming language has been in the wars over the years.

Oft derided for security concerns, its ‘amateur’ web designer following and for ‘borrowing’ its name from the beefier brew that is Java itself, it has been a rough 19 years or so.

Despite all this, JavaScript is still on every 'predictions for 2014 in tech' alert (yes, still they come!) currently doing the rounds. Are they trying to tell us that a coming of age is nigh?

We could suggest that things have changed due to the kinship this interpreted programming language shares with the pages of the web. This relationship is (arguably) a sort of self-perpetuating positive publicity vehicle.

JavaScript has also done well in the server room now that we have Node.js (basically server-side JavaScript) championing its ability to handle event-based server execution procedures, for all the goodness they bring.

Then there is the mobile HTML5 factor.

Where Objective-C has worked for Apple’s reasonably successful iOS devices, we also see Java for the Android army and Microsoft obviously setting a place for C# at its dinner table.

But all these mobile devices are going cloud-centric with applications that look and feel like web apps. All these devices are moving towards apps that either exist online-only, or act as muted versions of their connected cousins if you happen to live in a lead-lined bunker with no WiFi.

If a mobile developer can use HTML5 and JavaScript to build a potentially “ubiquitous” app capable of running everywhere, then why wouldn’t they?

Actually it’s not always that simple and there are reasons why HTML5 + JavaScript theory can fall at the last post (or in the last 10 per cent of a project i.e. same thing). This is mainly due to ground level engineering differences when porting from one platform to another, but that’s another API story for another day.

But for the most part, like we said, JavaScript is everywhere. So are we all OK with that?

The Register has already reported on the fact that Google positions Dart as its JavaScript competitor. The latest iteration of Dart claims to be able to output code that runs “as fast or faster” than the equivalent routines written in JavaScript. The native Dart virtual machine outstrips (in speed terms) even more so.

And now?

So it’s not all birthday cake and fizzy pop every time JavaScript crops up then? Not as far as Google is concerned anyway, especially given the fact that none of the top-five browsers (yes let’s include Opera) ships with Dart.

So what next for JavaScript?

JavaScript performance is thought to be improving and the mainstream analyst community has said that this will begin to push HTML5 and the browser as a mainstream enterprise application development environment - the two “mainstreams” there are not intentional.

“If I was just getting started in programming, and I didn't know what language to pick, I would pick JavaScript,"said Paco Hope, principal consultant at software security firm Cigital. "It can work on server side, client side, browser, mobile, Flash (ActionScript is just JavaScript repurposed).”

Mostly everyone loves (or at least likes) JavaScript and it has even been referred to as “the assembly language for the web” in some circles.

Program director for software development research at IDC Al Hilwa argues that it’s hard to disentangle a runtime from the platform it runs in - and JavaScript suffers under the wider reputation of the web platform itself, where broad accessibility and usage mean the longest list of security issues.

“The language itself is elegant, expressive and capable. In fact, too expressive in some ways, with features like closures that make it less readable and more difficult to debug. It also means that like many of the technologies on the web it is easy to learn but hard to master. This uneven learning curve is its curse and why many have continued to propose different languages,” said IDC’s Hilwa.

So OK it’s not all rosy everywhere, but it’s a light shade of positive pink for the most part. ®

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