Facebook continues tools deluge with JavaScript type checker

Open source Flow is the social network’s latest effort to introduce its technology to the community at large

With Tuesday's release of Flow, an open source static type checker, Facebook engineers are continuing their recent efforts to seed the community at large with tools built in-house.

"Flow adds static typing to JavaScript to improve developer productivity and code quality," Facebook technologists said in a blog post. "In particular, static typing offers benefits like early error-checking -- which helps you avoid certain kinds of runtime failures -- and code intelligence, which aids code maintenance, navigation, transformation, and optimization."

Flow is intended to enable developers to have the "feel" of coding JavaScript and does not force developers to change how they code, the post said:

Facebook loves JavaScript; it's fast, it's expressive, and it runs everywhere, which makes it a great language for building products. At the same time, the lack of static typing often slows developers down. Bugs are hard to find (e.g., crashes are often far away from the root cause), and code maintenance is a nightmare (e.g., refactoring is risky without complete knowledge of dependencies). Flow improves speed and efficiency so developers can be more productive while using JavaScript.

Facebook has been busy of late developing tools and contributing them to the community. Flow follows the revelation of Facebook at Work, a collaboration tool to compete with similar technologies from Google, LinkedIn, and Microsoft. Like Flow, Facebook at Work is in early stages of testing. The company also recently open-sourced its Chef "cookbooks" for devops with more to come.

This summer, Facebook revealed intentions to offer via open source a library for building native Apple iOS application interfaces, called AsyncDisplayKit. Previously, Facebook's HHVM source code transformer for PHP, also known as HipHop Virtual Machine, drew the backing of PHP founder Rasmus Lerdorf. Facebook even developed a PHP spinoff called Hack that leverages HHVM.

"[Facebook is] trying to create a platform of services and connect developers to it," analyst Jeffrey Hammond, of Forrester Research, said in an email on Tuesday. "In some ways they are like Salesforce, but where Salesforce knows a lot about customers, Facebook knows a lot about potential customers. And the more developers connects value-added services and content to Facebook, the more likely they will be able to attract and keep users."

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.