Improving ECMAScript as a compilation target

Peter Michaux petermichaux at gmail.com
Thu Feb 12 20:07:06 PST 2009


About five months ago I posted here about improving ECMAScript as a
compilation target.

https://mail.mozilla.org/pipermail/es-discuss/2008-September/007652.html

I was disappointed that there weren't any responses to that email.
Folks were probably busy with other concerns. I also thought there
might be some motivation to avoid making ECMAScript an improved
compilation target as that may reduce the number of programmers
working directly in ECMAScript. Perhaps that goes against the goals of
this group.

The general browser scripting world is still programming in
ECMAScript; however, the number of projects that compile to ECMAScript
are increasing. I expect to see this trend continue to grow.

I wrote the following as a blog post recently. I don't presume anyone
here reads my blog so am submitting it here. I am interested to know
if attitudes have changed or people are warming up to the idea of
changing ECMAScript intentionally to make it a better compilation
target.

----

The JVM is now a compilation target for many dynamic languages. The
implementers of those dynamic languages have been waiting for
invokedynamic so they can make their dynamic languages compile to more
efficient JVM byte code. Sun seems to have caught on that people want
to use the JVM but not use Java and Sun seems to be looking at ways to
accommodate the compilation of these dynamic languages. Microsoft's
.NET CLR+DLR is ahead of Sun and has implemented features for
efficient dynamic language compilation. Developers have made it clear
that even if they are locked into the platform, they are going to
still use their language of choice.

The same is happening in the browser. Developers are compiling many
languages down to ECMAScript ("they byte code of the browser"). GWT
and Cappuccino are two well know examples. These projects are
overruling the idea that they must write in ECMAScript to create
browser apps. They don't have to wait for the ECMAScript committee to
standardize methodMissing, for browsers to implement it and for old
browsers to disappear. Ten years? No way! They have methodMissing
now!!

Is it inevitable that browser makers and/or the ECMAScript standard
group will add features to ECMAScript specifically to make it a better
compilation target or expose actual byte code? By making ECMAScript
engines faster, browser makers have already started. Should the effort
to make the browser a better compilation target be encouraged and
expedited so the long drawn out "eventually" can come sooner?

----

Peter


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