Monday, April 9, 2012

Why didn’t we use Python in the browser?

Oh the lament!  Imagine that, instead of creating Javascript, Brendan Eich had implemented Python!

JS had to “look like Java” only less so, be Java’s dumb kid brother or boy-hostage sidekick. Plus, I had to be done in ten days or something worse than JS would have happened. [Eich]

(About the only nice thing Javascript has that Python doesn’t is anonymous multi-line functions whereas Python’s lambda syntax is, well, nothing nice can be said of it.)

Putting aside the political impossibility at the time, imagine it had been Python instead:

It follows that a whole generation would have learned Python (instead of Javascript) and it also follows that something exciting would have happened to stand-alone programs….

Its horrid to make apps that run in the browser in Javascript.  Its fun to make apps that run on the command-line because of Python.  But its easy to consume programs in the browser, and hard to consume programs on the command-line.

If Python could be used in the browser, it’d be natural for many - if not most - of people’s small Python apps to have been on-line instead.  And a whole bigger audience would have run them and played with them.

And maybe this accessibility would have introduced new people to programming and in some way recreated the excitement and learning as the first computers did?

So imagine that a language heralded for its teachability and readability had had that widely distributed platform for the past 15-odd years - the browser…


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