Recap and Prelude

Recap

Too much travel and conference fun, too little blogging:

I was invited to present a keynote at ACM ICFP 2005 in Tallinn, Estonia at the end of September. The very kind program comittee was unanimously interested in me as the ‘where the rubber meets the road’ speaker. I hope I delivered; I still have tire marks on my back from the Netscape 2 days.

It was an honor to speak and attend, and I made some good connections and introductions. Among these was Autrijus Tang, who is a hero in my book for promoting both Perl 6 and Haskell in one fell swoop. Functional programming is on the rise, and I’m glad that JS is playing a small (but very widely distributed) part.

While there, the Skype guys were nice enough to have me out to dinner — I hope to reciprocate when they’re in the bay area.

The old town in Tallinn is delightful, full of charming architecture from various eras going back to the high Middle Ages. I’m planning my move already (half-kidding).

After that came Web 2.0, which was a blur of VCs, old friends, and new companies. Everyone noticed the bubbly atmosphere. Mitchell was in fine form in a kind of interleaved interview titled Can Open Source Stay Open?

Prelude

I have been working more and more with ECMA TG1 on JavaScript standards, at first E4X (which was all but done when Mozilla joined ECMA last year) and now Edition 4. Our goals include:

  • Bringing Edition 4 back toward the current language, so that prototype based delegation is not a vestigial compatibility mode, but the dynamic part of an object system that includes classes with fixed members that cannot be overridden or shadowed.
  • Allowing implementors to bootstrap the language, expressing all the meta-object protocol magic used by the “native” objects (ECMA-262 Edition 3 section 15), including get/set/call/construct and control over property attributes such as enumerability.
  • Adding type annotations without breaking interoperation of existing and new editions, in support of programming in the large — which is needed more and more in XUL and modern web applications.
  • Fixing longstanding problems that bite almost every JS hacker, as I’ve discussed previously.

Our intention is to finish by the end of next year, and to implement and test interoperation along the way as much as possible. The Macromedia folks are quite far along in their implementation of a derivative of Waldemar’s Edition 4 draft, called ActionScript 3.

At the same time, and while also slaving over a hot Gecko 1.8 / Firefox 1.5 stove, I have been working with Mozilla leaders, especially shaver and other drivers, on roadmap-level plans for the next year to 15 months.

These plans build on bottom-up planning from module-sized projects such as the move to Cairo graphics as Gecko’s new graphics substrate, the Python for XUL project, and the XULRunner project. We aim to balance the need to ship Firefox releases that innovate quickly in user-facing ways with the longer cycle time required to uplift the web platform with better graphics features and content languages in Gecko 1.9.

The fruits of all this planning, in the form of a coherent draft overview containing links to project and wiki pages, and a schedule and branching plan for everyone to review, will be pushed out to http://www.mozilla.org/ imminently. The old roadmap page will contain at least links, if it doesn’t beome a redirect. Stay tuned.

XTech

Mozilla had a strong presence at XTech last week. To my mind the high point was the awesome spinning-SVG-containing-HTML demo that roc gave.

This happens to resemble an early Avalon demo (I can’t find a link to it, but I believe there was a video on the web some time after the 2003 Microsoft PDC), which just shows how the web can and will keep up with proprietary eye-candy — at least to a “good enough” degree. What’s good enough? Whatever it takes, including 3D graphics, in due course — but always incrementally developed and deployed, with web and XUL app/extension developers giving feedback and guidance.

Web incrementalism (feedback-guided “little bangs” instead of one grand-planned “big bang”) was the leitmotif of shaver‘s keynote, and this meme reverberated throughout the conference. It seems even XHTML 2 is adapting to “mindshare” (similarity to the web-as-it-is, if not actual backward compatibility).

That’s a hopeful sign, but don’t hold your breath for XHTML 2 on the web any time soon. It was amusing to hear that one of the design aims was less scripting, because scripting is hard for authors and constrains user-agent choice — when all user-agents will need major revision to support XHTML 2, which includes XForms (and meanwhile, the DHTML/AJAX/whatever-you-want-to-call-it JS renaissance continues). In the near term, only Mozilla-based browsers come close to having all the integrated infrastructure needed by XHTML 2, and not all bundled by default. There is no sign of XHTML 2 support from Microsoft, Apple, and Opera.

Still, XML is making its way to the client side of the web, slowly but surely. To help handle XML in JS, I’ve implemented E4X for Firefox 1.1. It isn’t fully hooked up yet, but it will be soon. More in a bit, as I keep my renewed resolution to blog.

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