The rise and rise of JavaScript

There is no end in sight to the rise of JavaScript according to the latest edition of ThoughtWorks’ Technology Radar. The January 2014 edition notes that “the ecosystem around JavaScript as a serious application platform continues to evolve”.

“I think JavaScript has been seen as a serious language for the last two or three years; I think now increasingly we’re seeing JavaScript as a platform,” said Sam Newman, ThoughtWorks’ Global Innovation Lead.

ThoughtWorks’ Technology Advisory Board moved Node.js from ‘trial’ to ‘adopt’ on the radar. “I think part of Node.js' success has been that the number of people that I've worked with that traditionally saw themselves as client-side developers and found the world of server-side computing available to them,” Newman said.

“The other part of that is obviously that Node.js’ server technology has some interesting capabilities available to it; it can support large numbers of connections, it can spin up in a very, very short space of time unlike say Java.

"But the primary driver for Node.js’ success has been the fact that it is JavaScript — [offering] the ability to have the same language on the front-end and the backend systems.”

JavaScript has emerged both as a platform for server-side code “but also a platform to host other languages,” Newman said. “I can run, for example, CoffeeScript or ClojureScript in my browser; I can actually write in a different language but using a JavaScript runtime it’s effectively a platform running code, in the same way you can host other languages on the Java Virtual Machine on the server side.”

There are some challenges facing JavaScript, Newman added. “The sheer size of the install base means that it’s going to be a while before we have new [language features” available to us,” he said.

This is likely to increase the number of people developing in other languages such as CoffeeScript or Microsoft’s TypeScript, which made appearances in the trial and assess segments of the Technology Radar respectively, and then compiling to JavaScript.

“I think that JavaScript has the hallmarks, from a developer’s perspective, of one of the languages that will become dominant and important,” ThoughtWorks Australia’s director of Technology, Scott Shaw, said.

“And it is now — but it’s the proliferation of open source tools and libraries that make it one of those languages, like Java might have been 10 years ago, that has the potential to really become a standard across a lot of industries.”

“One of the trends that I’ve noticed in the last year is development shops that have resisted diving into JavaScript and turned instead to things like GWT [Google Web Toolkit; Google’s Java framework for building JavaScript applications] — they’re moving away from those approaches and they’re diving in and training up their staff learning to write good JavaScript natively. That’s causing upheaval in a lot of places.”

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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