ECMA Announces Official λJS Adoption

Tags: JavaScript, April 1

Posted on 01 April 2012.

GENEVA - ECMA's Technical Committee 39, which oversees the standardization of ECMAScript, has completed the adoption of Brown PLT's λJS as the new basis for the language. "We were being hampered by the endless debates about the semantics of ECMAScript 5", said J. Neumann, the Chairman of the Committee. "By adopting λJS, we can return to focusing on the important parts of the programming language instead, such as its interaction with parts of the W3C DOM Specification."

"The replacement of scope objects with substitution is a clear design flaw."
-Arjun Guha

Improvements to λJS - Neumann added that the standardization process uncovered a significant weakness in λJS: the absence of the with construct. The Technical Committee therefore mandated its introduction. Lead designer Arjun Guha agreed, stating, "The replacement of scope objects with substitution is a clear design flaw. It was pointed out to me by numerous academic researchers who have obtained considerable mileage from them, but it took me a while to appreciate their value." The Committee also recommended a "strict mode", so Guha removed first-class functions, which are widely believed to induce laxity by deferring decision-making.

Opposition to the Change - The adoption of λJS has not, however, met with unanimous approval. When asked for comment, Douglas Crockford of Yahoo! complained that the small parts are not good while the good parts are not small. Another detractor, Northeastern University researcher Sam Tobin-Hochstadt, had pushed for the adoption of Racket as the core language instead of λJS, but he admitted that Racket was untenable as it suffered from having a working module system. The team from Apple declined response, but it is widely rumored that Jonathan Ive is at work on a new core calculus that will have only one operation, which will automatically take the step that the user did not know they should have performed.

"We see this as a fight for the future of the Internet."
-David Herman

Influential Support - Nevertheless, the adoption has support from various influential circles. The Internet Explorer group at Microsoft has already agreed to implement λJS in the core engine of their upcoming release, IE12; lead designer Dean Hachamovitch said it is second in innovation only to the introduction of tabs. Strict mode will be supported in IE13. Google's Mark Miller pointed out, "With the aid of membranes, any primordial vat can be instantiated with desirable liveness properties." When asked to comment about λJS instead of the Miller-Urey experiment, Miller repeated the comment. Finally, noted Mozilla researcher Dave Herman commented, "For Mozilla, we see this as a fight for the future of the Internet." On questioning, he admitted that he diverts all interviews into conversations about Boot2Gecko.