Is The Death Of JavaScript Upon Us, Or Is A Universal Language Transformation Underway?

Startups identify with JavaScript. When you’re just starting out, you need to be dynamic. You need to be flexible. You need to be able to bust out a prototype that just works, and you need to be able to change it on a dime without recompiling your code. JavaScript was once the startup of the browser wars, and it crushed Java and Flash for the same reasons that startups have the ability to disrupt markets and displace the established players: agility and flexibility.
Today, JavaScript is no longer a startup, and it’s no longer just startups that are using it. Companies of all sizes and levels of maturity build applications for the browser, and JavaScript is the language they use to build them. The demands that were once placed on languages like C/C++ and Java are now shifting to JavaScript, and that shift is exposing the language’s limitations: performance and maintainability.
Those in the latest generation of JavaScript engines deliver incredible performance gains, but these still aren’t enough. Look at sites such as YouTube and Hulu, as well as Facebook’s and EA’s gaming platforms. When it comes to demanding multimedia applications, companies still turn to Flash for performance. The oracle of Steve Jobs may have predicted the ultimate fate of Flash, but we still have to deal with it until JavaScript can match its performance.
Once your codebase reaches hundreds of thousands of lines of code, and it’s all written in a dynamic language such as JavaScript, development velocity starts to suffer. If you make modifications to one side of your codebase, there’s no way to know if that is going to introduce bugs somewhere else without actually running your application. Testing can only get you so far; there are only so many contingencies that you can anticipate. The result is either more buggy software or longer release cycles.
Somebody needs to address these limitations so that companies can continue to innovate and build amazing applications for the web. Who’s going to do it and how?

By Péter Halácsy

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