Thursday, September 18, 2008

Chrome's JavaScript challenge to Silverlight

The biggest rival for Microsoft's next-generation Silverlight Web technology will be JavaScript, not Adobe Systems' ubiquitous Flash, according to experts speaking at Microsoft's Tech.Ed conference here.

"I think that the next 18 months we're going to see a 100- to 1,000-fold speed increase in JavaScript as Google and the guys at Mozilla are going to kick us all in the arse and make our JavaScript jittered," Microsoft senior program manager Scott Hanselman told the audience Friday, days after Google released its Chrome browser, which features faster JavaScript technology.

Jonas Follesø, senior consultant at Cap Gemini, agreed, saying that JavaScript would continue to get speedier and that Chrome will become "massively" faster than it is.

"Now Google has stepped up and released a browser with jittered JavaScript and JavaVM, making this really, really, really fast," he said.

ZDNet's Sumi Das and Sam Diaz talk about the perks and pitfalls of the
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The consultant said that whenever he thought people had reached a limit about what could be done inside a browser using just JavaScript, some "cool JavaScript writer" came up and showed him how to do more.

"It's going to be hard to tell if it's going to be Silverlight or JavaScript we're going to use for our applications," he said. "I think in the end JavaScript is going to be a bigger competitor to Silverlight than Flash is."

An audience member questioned the panel of experts later on whether he should "be out buying JavaScript books" now the language had been "put on steroids."

Harry Pierson, Microsoft program manager, answered that he thought "JavaScript is a very odd language for most developers" and that it was more interesting to do higher-level development and if necessary compile it down to JavaScript.

Hanselman had a different opinion, saying that although it was a "freaky, weird language," it was possible to do object-oriented programming. "The JavaScript I used and hated in Netscape 4 is not the same JavaScript we have today," he said. "So yeah, I think you should get some JavaScript books."

Follesø said that even if souped-up JavaScript became dominant, he thought Silverlight was going to be big, especially in the enterprise when "fun" Web 2.0 applications come to roost. "For the intranet, when the users expect the same kind of user experience it's not that easy to really build that stuff in HTML and JavaScript, so Silverlight might be a lot easier alternative," he said.

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