Harmony

Harmony is a very good thing.

For some time now, the ECMAScript working groups have been split into two camps: one supporting ECMAScript 4, another ECMAScript 3.1. The former was a more radical leap forward in ECMAScript (JavaScript), while the latter favored more incremental progress.

AjaxianJohn ResigSimon Willison, and a host of others are referencing an email by Brendan Eich to the lists for both efforts about a new, combined effort dubbed “Harmony”.

Eich writes:

It’s no secret that the JavaScript standards body, Ecma’s Technical Committee 39, has been split for over a year, with some members favoring ES4, a major fourth edition to ECMA-262, and others advocating ES3.1 based on the existing ECMA-262 Edition 3 (ES3) specification. Now, I’m happy to report, the split is over.

The Ecma TC39 meeting in Oslo at the end of July was very productive, and if we keep working together, it will be seen as seminal when we look back in a couple of years. Before this meeting, I worked with John Neumann, TC39 chair, and ES3.1 and ES4 principals, especially Lars Hansen (Adobe), Mark Miller (Google), and Allen Wirfs-Brock (Microsoft), to unify the committee around shared values and a common roadmap. This message is my attempt to announce the main result of the meeting, which I’ve labeled “Harmony”.

Executive Summary

The committee has resolved in favor of these tasks and conclusions:

1. Focus work on ES3.1 with full collaboration of all parties, and target two interoperable implementations by early next year.

2. Collaborate on the next step beyond ES3.1, which will include syntactic extensions but which will be more modest than ES4 in both semantic and syntactic innovation.

3. Some ES4 proposals have been deemed unsound for the Web, and are off the table for good: packages, namespaces and early binding. This conclusion is key to Harmony.

4. Other goals and ideas from ES4 are being rephrased to keep consensus in the committee; these include a notion of classes based on existing ES3 concepts combined with proposed ES3.1 extensions.

The rest of the email then gives the details.

As one can read in comments out and about, not everyone is pleased by this new accord, as they don’t see that the new effort represents enough progress. However, without accord from all the major browser developers, there is no progress: only variations of pretty chaos.

I must admit, being somewhat conservative — or perhaps, after having worked with JavaScript since the first glimmerings over 12 years ago, exhausted with dealing with browser differences — that I’m happy we’re going for simpler changes, implemented broadly. This is a good thing.

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