The Web-App Language of the Future is Already Here.

Since the excellent Joel on Software no longer accepts comments, I decided to comment on his latest post here.

In his post, Joel explains how the current state of AJAX web-app development has many parallels with desktop app development back in the 90’s. Joel makes a breathless prediction of a future event that will revolutionize web-app development:

What’s going to happen? The winners are going to do what worked at Bell Labs in 1978: build a programming language, like C, that’s portable and efficient. It should compile down to “nativeâ€? code (native code being JavaScript and DOMs) with different backends for different target platforms, where the compile writers obsess about performance so you don’t have to. It’ll have all the same performance as native JavaScript with full access to the DOM in a consistent fashion, and it’ll compile down to IE native and Firefox native portably and automatically. […] Oh joyous day that will be.

Sound like anything you can think of? Someone needs to tell Joel his mythical programming language already exists: it’s called ActionScript. Admittedly ActionScript does not compile down to JavaScript and DOMs, but otherwise it matches his description perfectly.

Here’s another quote that seems to be talking about Flex/Flash/Actionscript:

Somebody is going to write a compelling SDK that you can use to make powerful Ajax applications with common user interface elements that work together. And whichever SDK wins the most developer mindshare will have the same kind of competitive stronghold as Microsoft had with their Windows API.

Sounds like it’s a good time to be an ActionScript developer.

14 Responses

  1. marco says:

    There is also haXe wich compiles both swf bytecode and javascript code 🙂


  2. shaun says:

    yeh exactly.. If any single language fits the quotes above it is haXe. One language that targets Flash, JavaScript, the server and the desktop!

    ActionScript on the other hand targets only the Flash Platform (Flash Player, Flash Lite and AIR)

  3. The only thing we’re missing, is copy and paste functionality, file system support, and other various “local system” benefits. In steps Adobe AIR… Hmm…

  4. Frodo says:

    One language to rule them all and in the… Nevermind. 😉

  5. Lee Felarca says:

    I think I understand why he might not consider Flash/Actionscript as fitting the bill since it’s a proprietary platform. But it’s strange (and annoying) that he doesn’t mention Flash once. It’s like pretending that the pink elephant in the middle of the room doesn’t exist.

  6. Kasper says:

    What pink elephant?

  7. Ljubo says:

    definitely haXe

  8. 中国 says:


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  11. Don Ulrich says:

    Joel has it WRONG javascript is NOT A NATIVE LANGUAGE.
    The web pundits need to get with it or be left behind

  12. Russell says:

    Google also has a Java library that let’s you write code in Java but that once compiled spits out the ajax parts necessary. I like the quote on the page–“for Java programmers who don’t speak browser quirks as a second language.” Personally, I work in Flash, ajax, and Java. Doing that unfortunately keeps me from becoming too much of an expert in any one of them, but I find it’s useful to adapt to my client’s needs (and Flash is my favorite).

  13. Flash is in its own little world outside of the dom/ajax universe, which is both a benefit and a hinderance.

    But you’re right, what Joel speaks of does exist, in the forms of Google GWT and Microsoft’s Volta, each of which have a long way to go before they catch up to the capabilities and performance of Flash/Flex.

  14. Mischa McLachlan says:

    You guys might want to look at Sproutcore, unless you’ve already done so:

    The demo’s are great!

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