JavaScripts Travails

JavaScript is nearly reaching a tenth year aniversay and yet is still one of the best scripting languages around. “Still ? ” you ask. Well look what JavaScript has had to go through. “Cut off the oxygen” good will from Microsoft did its parent in and left the language orphaned with effectively no development funding while in AOLs “recusitative” custody. The LiveScript and other server side ventures were allowed to die on the vine. Unfortunately, Borland folded its tent on Intrabuilder the only other JavaScript Visual IDE worthy of the name well before AOL divested itself of all vestiges of Netscape development about 4 years ago. So JavaScript has gone without an IDE since then.

Now some readers will say “no no” and chime in with the bastards name, JScript, as you know, the proprietary version of JavaScript that enough organizations have bought into to allow the zombie browser, IE, to reek its Shaun-of-the-undead security and reliability nightmares upon “unsuspecting” corporate IT operations who were “suckered” into the proprietary fix and have lived under incessant availability problems compounded by viral attacks for 5 years ongoing which like a bad Voodoo TV Sarah Michelle Geller script will run for at least two Longhorn more excruciating years – meandering and maundering along like this bad, malformed and run on-and-on-and-on sentence until the Great GatesKeeper says yea-and-not-nay to some sort of functional update to IE. But dont hold your breath. What happens two years hence is a deep dark secret of BillCo, the not-your-average-bilking guys and gals who have proved their mettle by selling Joel and a bridge in Brooklyn many times over to some very large IT shops.

Dreamweaver you say. Puhleeeese! Macromedia thinks color-coded editing and barebones Venkman debugger is all JavaScript coders need. My gosh in the past four years Macromedia Flash and Flex have both gotten better IDE facilities and Visual Design capabilities than JavaScript. And this despite the fact that JavaScript has seen a renaissance in the development of visual components (see the tutorials at theOpensourcery.com) and a huge uptick in its use in development tools as varied as BEA Weblogic Workshop, IBM/Rational Developer, and Sun JavaStudio Creator. As well JavaScript has become the main macro scripting language for such diverse vendors as Adobe, Macromedia, Siebel, and Trolltech among many others. What is holding JavaScript back in Dreamweaver ? – ask Macromedia.

But hey, the good folks in Redmond are not above kicking down a language. Remember all those promises of DHTML digital dashboards and coding aids – abruptly stopped in 2001. Remember all those promises to bring IE upto ECMAScript/JavaScript standards including DOM, CSS, and XML/HTML compliance-come on, when was IE last functionally updated ? This is a skill testing question: a)6 months ago, b)12 months ago, c)24 months ago, d)48 months ago ? D-Do you see a pattern here ?

Okay disguised in all this drollery is an important message. Both Java and JavaScript have been proprietized and/or incapacitated on Windows. Ditto for C/C++. The rest of the .NET languages are rigged such that regardless of Mono or whatever; .NET programming languages will exclusively run best on Windows. Microsoft is dead set against a cross platform procedural scripting or programming language gaining ascendancy on the Windows platform. Yet there is a clear need for exactly that.

Consider the following: what is going to be the programming/scripting language for cross platform agenting ? What is going to be the cross-platform scripting or programming language that is going to carry forward Web Services and SOA-Service Oriented Architecture ? And dont give us the declarative, non-procedural BPEL or XQuery orXPath or XSLT. And what is going to be the cross platform macro scripting language for applications ? Just a couple of years ago, I would have said JavaScript with some confidence. But with the slow adoption of the E4X extensions to JavaScript which considerably simplify XML processing and despite the strong recommendations for E4X by Brendan Eich of Mozilla.org, creator of JavaScript, who said nearly two years ago:
“We welcome E4X as a timely, simple, and powerful extension to ECMAScript. As more script authors encounter XML data, they will want exactly what E4X provides. This is a useful and innovative extension for developers across the Web.”
This plus a dozen other factors large and small including the lack of a cross platform JavaScript IDE – this party is not so sanguine about the success of JavaScript. But one thing I am certain of – Microsofts treatment of Java and especially JavaScript is a clear guidance. Given Redmonds short-sighted, self-serving and zero-sum policies, Microsoft deserves low to no credibility in describing the IT Road Ahead.

(c)JBSurveyer 2005

Anyone who finds a JavaScript IDE with visual drag and drop forms design, simple database/XML data bindings and full animated debugging with breakpoints, watches, and step in, step out and step over controls – please let me know. Ditto for alternatives to JavaScript as universal, cross platform scripting language. Before I get inundated with Python, Perl, Ruby, PHP, etc recommendations – remember the scripting agent must be cross platform and must have IDE features detailed above for JavaScript.