Convergence options for Ecmascript/Actionscript?

Rick Waldron waldron.rick at gmail.com
Tue Aug 28 18:54:19 PDT 2012


On Tue, Aug 28, 2012 at 8:30 PM, Brendan Eich <brendan at mozilla.org> wrote:

> Claus Reinke wrote:
>
>> Hope this isn't politically inappropriate here;-)
>>
>> 1. Flash is dying as a browser plugin, but otherwise still alive,
>>    especially with compilation of Actionscript to native code [2,3].
>>
>> 2. Adobe has been growing support for HTML/Javascript options.
>>
>> 3. Actionscript is based on an old ES draft standard that failed to
>>    reach consensus, partly because its changes were considered
>>    too much at once. [my impression - I don't have a reference]
>>
>
> You really should read back in es-discuss if you have time (understand if
> you don't!). We covered what made ES4 fail. The main problem was
> namespaces, upon which packages were built.
>
> Unfortunately, AS3 uses namespaces and packages heavily. Mozilla's Shumway
> project includes an AS3 bytecode recompiler that generates JS, and we
> cannot lower namespaces to anything native and JIT-optimized in JS itself.
> Cc'ing Tobias in case he can comment.
>
>
>  4. Lots of Actionscript developers find themselves having to
>>    grow accustomed to the world of HTML/Javascript
>>
>
> Developers do adapt, of course.
>
>
>  One consequence of 4 are blog posts about "Javascript technology
>> X, for Flash developers". When I read such blog posts (eg, [1], with
>> side-by-side comparisons of AS and JS code), I get the feeling that
>> the transition would be much easier from AS3 to ES6, where things
>> like modules and minimal classes exist. There is an opportunity here,
>> if those parts of the standard are sufficiently stable to recommend
>> transpiling (until real ES6 implementations come along).
>>
>
> Namespaces and packages are the problems (really one problem, namespaces
> making lookup three dimensional rather than two dimensions (proto and scope
> chain).
>
>
>  One consequence of 3 is that there should be a vibrant community
>> of AS developers who have practical experience with features similar
>> to those considered for ES6, in a Javascript-like language.
>>
>
> Not similar enough, in my view. Not only does AS3 have namespaces, it uses
> them for class-private and IIRC protected visibility. IIRC AS3 classes do
> not have class-side inheritance (just like Java), another difference.
>
> Finally, AS3 was really intended, along with an implicitly early-bound
> namespace, to statically judge the meaning of names and even types. Its
> code loading and global object model is entirely unlike the Web's.
>
>
>  Yet I
>> do not see any experience reports or spec feedback based on that
>> here on this list. Wouldn't it be very helpful to invite such input?
>>
>
> I think not. Some of us were involved intimately in ES4. We have the scars
> and remember the differences. ES6 does not need more constraints or feature
> demands from newcomers. That is a sure way to kill it.
>
>
>  I don't expect Actionscript developers want to lose any of their
>> language features, but there might be profit (for both AS and ES
>> developers) if Adobe could try to align AS4 to ES6 so that the
>> common language subsets have common syntax and semantics.
>>
>
> That's up to Adobe, but I recall that they are talking about going more
> their own way:
>
> http://www.kirupa.com/forum/**showthread.php?371078-**
> ActionScript-quot-Next-quot-**Flash-Roadmap<http://www.kirupa.com/forum/showthread.php?371078-ActionScript-quot-Next-quot-Flash-Roadmap>
>
>
>  Such a hypothetical AS4 would be a typed version of ES6, making
>> it easier for Adobe's tools to support both, and making it easier
>> for developers to use or maintain either.
>>
>
> No typed (static) version can work interoperably and soundly with the
> dynamic language. This was one of the conclusions of the ES4 work. How to
> interface typed and untyped (dynamically typed) code is still research. Sam
> Tobin-Hochstadt's Typed Racket work is one example of research along the
> lines of interconnecting dynamic and static code without losing soundness.
>
> Even throwing out soundness may break interop. We'll see how this works
> for Dart, but right now Dart is a dynamic language with an early warning
> system.
>
>
>  Are there any Adobe folks listening here? Does anyone have the
>> contacts to raise the question with them? Do you agree that there
>> is potential for useful exchange of information and joining of
>> efforts if the wall between AS and ES could be lowered?
>>
>
> Adobe folks departed the Ecma TC39 field, although IIRC Adobe remainds a
> member of www.ecma-international.org.
>
> Again I must comment that ES6 wants no new constraints and pressures.
> Scope creep is the enemy.
>
> Also, you should not ignore the ES4 lessons learned or assume the problems
> were not material and inherent to the divergence between AS3 and ES3.


I know that Divya Manian (left Opera to join Adobe a few months ago) was
interested in possibly reviving Adobe's TC39 involvement—but not at all on
behalf of AS3 (4?) developments. Adobe has a lot of momentum building
around their newer JavaScript based HTML5 products, so my guess is that if
there is any renewed interest will arise from that.

Rick




>
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