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JavaScript getting faster, could displace Flash

JavaScript, the now-ubiquitous scripting language popular in client-side Web development, has gotten faster and could find itself being used instead of Adobe Flash technology, according to Brendan Eich, the creator of JavaScript. "The browser vendors are making super-fast implementations of it, so JavaScript's gotten very, very fast, and this is helping developers use it more," Eich said when asked what he sees in the future for JavaScript. "It's being used for 3D graphics programming now."

"My prediction is we'll see even more JavaScript. We'll see 3D games being written, innovations that we haven't even conceived of yet," he said. Activities now done in Flash would be done in the browser via JavaScript, Eich said. Such enhancements to JavaScript would "take over" if Microsoft decides to support them in its Internet Explorer browser or if such support could be added to Internet Explorer through other means, according to Eich, who is a leader of the Mozilla Foundation.

Eich discussed JavaScript and the ECMAscript standard behind it during a presentation and in a subsequent interview with InfoWorld at the World Wide Web Consortium Technical/Plenary Advisory Committee meeting in Santa Clara, Calif. (Read InfoWorld's in-depth interview with Brendan Eich.)

JavaScript has moved well beyond an original perception of being a "kid brother to Java," with Java having been viewed as the real programming language, Eich said. "People will disagree, but I think Java is almost dead on the client side of the Web, and JavaScript is everywhere," Eich said.

Flash also faces a real threat from HTML 5.

ECMAscript is to be upgraded with the upcoming approval of ECMAscript 5 slated for next month, Eich said. The standard is in deliberations at ECMA. Formerly called ECMAscript 3.1, Version 5 will feature capabilities such as meta-programming and hardening of objects. "You can make objects that can't be tampered with," Eich said. "You can control modifications to your objects."

Deliberations on an upgrade to ECMAscript hit a roadblock in past years due to technical and political disagreements, resulting in continued work on ECMAscript 3.1 and development of a battle plan of sorts for improvements to the standard, known as Harmony.

Another edition of ECMAscript based on Harmony is expected in two-and-a-half years, Eich said. At some point, JavaScript could reach a stage where it will not need much improvement, he said. "If we do our job right, we end up in a situation where JavaScript doesn't need to change much," said Eich.

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