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Javascript Evolves: Tech Heavyweights Battle Over Statically Typed Javascript

By Dick Weisinger

Javascript was ranked as the programming language of 2014 based on the frequency of searches made on public search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo! and Wikipedia.  While Javascript has long had detractors, the fact that it’s the standard language of the browser has enabled it to remain popular.

Rather than try to introduce totally new alternative languages to Javascript that would no doubt be difficult to get universally accepted, increasingly groups are attempting to introduce improvements to the Javascript language or to introduce new languages that ultimately compile to standard Javascript.

The next generation of Javascript standard, ECMAScript 6, or ES6 is in the final rounds of being finalized, now targeted for June 2015.  (ECMA stands for the European Computer Manufacturers Association).  ES6 will include enhancements like promises, the ‘let’ keyword, and iterators.  It’s taken some time to get this far and there have been a number of delays before finalizing the specification.

typescript

Microsoft’s TypeScript

A quicker alternative to waiting for the ECMA committee to move forward with changes to the Javascript language is to create an ‘improved’ Javascript-based language that ultimately compiles in to Javascript code and will run in today’s browsers.

One area in particular that people find lacking with standard Javascript is the fact that it isn’t a statically typed language.  Some benefits of static typing include:

  • Detecting program errors early on before even running the program
  • Type declarations adds a minimal amount of auto-documentation that improves the understanding of the program
  • May improve runtime efficiency of the program

While many people agree that that the benefits of statically typed languages are large, especially for projects of scale, on the flip side, some issues that people have with statically typed languages include:

  • Verbose
  • Hard to use for prototyping
  • Time spent compiling

Recently, three different approaches to creating new languages that support static typing and that ultimately compile into standard Javascript include Microsoft’s TypeScript, Facebook’s Flow, and Google’s AtScript and Closure.  It appears that a new browser battle may be brewing between heavyweight tech companies.

 

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