JSJ 392: The Murky Past and Misty Future of JavaScript with Douglas Crockford

00:00 1:13:10
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Episode Summary

Douglas is a language architect and helped with the development of JavaScript. He started working with JavaScript in 2000. He talks about his journey with the language, including his initial confusion and struggles, which led him to write his book JavaScript: The Good Parts.

Douglas’ take on JavaScript is unique because he not only talks about what he likes, but what he doesn’t like. Charles and Douglas discuss some of the bad parts of JavaScript, many of which were mistakes because the language was designed and released in too little time. Other mistakes were copied intentionally from other languages because people are emotionally attached to the way things “have always been done”, even if there is a better way.

Douglas takes a minimalist approach to programming. They talk about his opinions on pairing back the standard library and bringing in what’s needed. Douglas believes that using every feature of the language in everything you make is going to get you into trouble. Charles and Douglas talk about how to identify what parts are useful and what parts are not.

Douglas delves into some of the issues with the ‘this’ variable. He has experimented with getting rid of ‘this’ and found that it made things easier and programs smaller. More pointers on how to do functional programming can be found in his book How JavaScript Works

Charles and Douglas talk about how he decided which parts were good and bad. Douglas talks about how automatic semicolon insertion and ++ programming are terrible, and his experiments with getting rid of them. He explains the origin of JS Lint. After all, most of our time is not spent coding, it’s spent debugging and maintaining, so there’s no point in optimizing keystrokes.

Douglas talks about his experience on the ECMAScript development committee and developing JavaScript. He believes that the most important features in ES6 were modules and proper tail calls. They discuss whether or not progression or digression is occurring within JavaScript. Douglas disagrees with all the ‘clutter’ that is being added and the prevalent logical fallacy that if more complexity is added in the language, then the program will be simpler.

Charles asks Douglas about his plans for the future. His current priority is the next language. He talks about the things that JavaScript got right, but does not believe that it should not be the last language. He shares how he thinks that languages should progress. There should be a focus on security, and security should be factored into the language.

Douglas is working on an implementation for a new language he calls Misty. He talks about where he sees Misty being implemented. He talks about his Frontend Masters course on functional programming and other projects he’s working on. The show concludes with Douglas talking about the importance of teaching history in programming.

Panelists

  • Charles Max Wood

With special guest: Douglas Crockford

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