It’s more than whether JavaScript is suitable for games or animation.

I recently wrote about the troubles I had using the JavaScript-based Brickslayer game. Please read my earlier article to get a good idea about the numerous problems I ran into. Also read this comment to that article. Somebody going by the name joe, stated the following: quite right. JavaScript is NOT for games or animation. However for most other things on the web, it works quite well.

The point the comment makes appears to be half correct. JavaScript apparently is not suitable for games or animation, as shown by the issues I describe in my earlier article. But when it comes to the second point, about JavaScript being useful for most other things, I think we need to put in some further consideration. Based on what I experienced, I don’t think JavaScript is suitable for any serious application.

The most significant problem is no doubt the drastically different behavior of the same JavaScript code on modern versions of some of the major Web browsers. When it comes to developing more serious applications, that’s just not acceptable. Now, this may be solved in a number of ways. Formal standardization is one method. The use of a compatibility layer is another.

But it doesn’t seem to me to be a major step forward if we’re just revisiting many of the same issues that the C and C++ communities had to deal with 20 years ago. At least their efforts have matured to the point where it’s fairly easy to write code and know it’ll behave the same when compiled with different compilers from different vendors. We apparently don’t have that with JavaScript, even in the face of the ECMA standardization.

And I don’t think we should just accept that JavaScript “is not for games or animation”. Given the great amount of processing power offered by even a 5-year-old PC, there’s no reason why it should be so difficult to create a fully-functioning JavaScript clone of a 25-year-old game. The mere fact that multiple browsers ended up consuming 100% of the CPU suggests that modern JavaScript implementations suffer from some pretty serious performance problems. If they choke on tasks that could be readily performed decades ago, it’s doubtful they have what it takes to lead is into the future.

As software development moves forward, these are just the sorts of issues that we shouldn’t be revisiting again and again and again. The performance problems of JavaScript are particularly bothersome. It’d be one thing if we were pushing the limits of today’s technology trying to achieve something that had not been done before. But that’s not the case. We’re running into major problems just trying to duplicate what was done a quarter of a century ago, with far fewer resources! That’s not technological evolution. It’s a clear case of devolution!

Software development is often difficult enough as it is. So we need to stop backpedalling with JavaScript, and instead move forward using languages like Haskell and Erlang. They’ll let us do new and innovative things with the massive amount of computing power we have today in the average PC. This is in stark contrast to JavaScript, which appears to severely fail at replicating, never mind bettering, our past software development accomplishments.

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