Open Buddha

Open Source Buddhism, Technology, and Geekery

ECMAScript and Internet Explorer


By Al Jigong Billings

Chris Wilson, the Platform Architect for IE (and generally a reasonable fellow) has put up a short post on the IEBlog on ECMAScript 4. I'll quote it in its entirely since it is nearly gnomic in its brevity:

ECMAScript 3 and Beyond

There have been a number of blog posts recently about JavaScript developments, e.g. Gabriele Renzi’s "ECMAScript 4, the fourth system syndrome". For ECMAScript, we here on the IE team certainly believe that thoughtful evolution is the right way to go; as I've frequently spoken about publicly, compatibility with the current web ecosystem - not "breaking the Web" - is something we take very seriously. In our opinion, a revolution in ECMAScript would be best done with an entirely new language, so we could continue supporting existing users as well as freeing the new language from constraints (including the constraint of performantly supporting scripts written in the old language). My colleague Pratap (our representative on the ECMAScript Technical Committee) with the JScript team, just posted on their blog about some work they've done on this topic. We're also very interested in feedback from JavaScript web and framework developers on their thoughts about their needs and the future of the language.

Gorilla!I gather from Chris' post that, while they aren't going to out and out say so, it is very unlikely that IE will support ECMAScript 4 in IE8 (or perhaps even beyond that). I find that to be too bad. I'm pretty opinion neutral on ECMAScript 4 as a standard as I don't know a lot of the ins and outs and am not that terribly great of a Javascript Commando. I am pretty positive on the idea of the web continuing to evolve and doing so in a way that embraces new standards. The alternative is that the web continues to evolve but does so in a partisan way not based on standards. I don't think the net will discontinue its state of constant change, as inconvenient as that may be for the IE team and its plans for global domination through "not breaking the Web" and freezing us at 2001 (joke!).

If the Internet is going to change and develop anyway, they might as well get on the train with everyone else and support standards that people get together and agree on. Otherwise, IE runs the risk of their browser share simply eroding away as the rest of the world moves forward. Of course, many of us are pretty convinced that this is going to happen anyway and it isn't a bad thing. The problem here is that as long as IE comes with an operating system that has the majority of the market, it is still going to be the 500 lb. gorilla sitting sullenly in the corner.

Update for 10/31:  Chris Wilson has posted a much longer personal response today to the accusations by various parties that IE is trying to stop the web from moving forward. It is worth a read.