Kris Zyp, a researcher at SitePen and the Dojo Foundation's representative on the committee, said, "Our interest is empowering the Web developers, not seeing ECMAScript as a pure research language."
Many of the ideas that some committee members wanted to bring to the ECMAScript 4.0 standard are well known by programmers, but they're often associated with other languages and other styles of writing code. Some wanted ECMAScript 4.0 to include stronger ways for the programmer to specify the type of each variable, a more structured approach that's required by languages like Java.
ECMAScript 4.0 – now abandoned in favor of a more modest ECMAScript 3.1 proposal – was also going to have more sophisticated namespaces or packages that would prevent conflicts when two developers inadvertently use the same name for different methods.
Coders on big projects often crave these missing features because the structure helps avoid bugs and other problems. Language features such as dividing code into namespaces and adding types for the data structures are essential for keeping bigger projects functioning. When programming teams grow larger than one person, mind reading is harder than forcing the developers to use some extra structure. Adobe, for instance, incorporated many of these ideas into ActionScript to help developers create bigger, more sophisticated components that could be deployed through the browser. Much of the ECMAScript 4.0 standard was inspired by ActionScript and one of its spiritual forebears, Java.
Thomas Fuchs, the creator of the popular Script.aculo.us framework, said that he won't miss any of these new ideas. "Lean is better, and less language features make for better interpreters." he said. "Think of mobile or embedded devices where performance is limited."
[ Readreviews and view brief QuickTime tours of seven open source Ajax toolkits: Inside open source Ajax toolkits. ]
TraceMonkey, a new compilation approach recently announced by the Mozilla Foundation, is said to run some basic operations 20 to 30 times faster. The group claims the SunSpider benchmark runs almost twice as fast on the new implementation.
Zyp said that most of the 4.0 ideas are still under consideration in some form or other. "ECMA 3.1 will be a relatively minor upgrade," he explained. "There's still active discussion about what will be after and that will be called ECMAScript Harmony."
"Having the next edition implemented by all parties including Microsoft is infinitely more valuable than having something implemented by just two browsers," Zyp said. "We're focused on what's easiest and fastest for people to use this stuff."