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It's a very bad target for compilers too. Guys should just get their stuff together and write a reasonable bytecode format for browsers that is fast to read and verify. Would also save quite a bit of transfer.

PS. If intel told me to do such crap in their architecture manuals, I would be the last user of PPC out there. I suggest reading them, or JVM bytecode spec to see what is a good compiler target.




"It's a very bad target for compilers too."

Emscripten is nowhere near the complexity of a SelectionDAG-based LLVM backend. In fact Emscripten is mostly written in JavaScript. The only comparatively tricky part is the Relooper, which is just a few pages of code.

"Guys should just get their stuff together and write a reasonable bytecode format for browsers that is fast to read and verify."

A nice-looking bytecode doesn't seem worth the loss of backwards compatibility. The encoding is ugly, but compatibility with existing browsers seems like such a huge win for something that really just amounts to a different encoding.

"Would also save quite a bit of transfer."

The effect on download size is minimal actually, compared to native code. And compared to gzipped LLVM bitcode, gzipped asm.js is tiny. http://mozakai.blogspot.com/2011/11/code-size-when-compiling...

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Whats your metric for "bad"? It seems like complaining about ELF format or the different assembly formats used by assemblers. Ok, there is no goto/jmp but apart from that its just a different assembly syntax which happens to also support expressions and not just diadic/triadic instructions.

This is not a green field solution - which would require alignment from all browser vendors, but instead an attempt to explore within the confines of what already runs today.

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Yeah, that's the position of Google's NativeClient project. But it's not backwards compatible with older browsers, which is the reason for doing this how they are. asm.js will run in any browser supporting JS already, and will be faster in browsers supporting the optimizations. It's not perfect, but it works now.

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You are overstating your case. It is not ideal, but it is serviceable. It is most importantly better than what we have now. To call an indisputable improvement "very bad" pretty much strips the word "bad" of all meaning.

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Because "guys" can't. The browser world is laden with massive backward compatibility issues that will never, ever go away.

Yeah, I would love something like NaCL, but that aint' happening, so baby steps.

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When I was making a very argument in the last thread, it seemed like people for whatever reason just did not want to let JS go.

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You're mistaken. It is not that people "just did not want to let JS go," but that "let JS go" is so immensely hard at this point in time that it is sitting near "boil the ocean" on the practicality scale. We don't know how to do it, so it's not a meaningful suggestion. In order to convince people that it's even worth trying, you need to enunciate a) a practical plan for "letting JS go," and b) a case for why the advantages of that plan in the context of the modern browser landscape outweigh the advantages of the plan the Mozilla devs are going with. You didn't do that.

To put it another way: If we were implementing Web browser scripting completely from scratch with no history to lean on, this is not how I would do it and probably not how Dave Herman would do it either. But we aren't in that situation. As it stands, there are lots of existing JavaScript implementations that browser makers are heavily invested in — and they are not going to throw that all out and implement a new, incompatible and much more restrictive standard just because I wave my magic wand. The idea behind asm.js is that it is the smallest change you can make to still get the desired effect, because change is hard.

Even if you don't think asm.js is perfect, it's a huge step in the direction you want to go. Complaining that it doesn't teleport us all the way there seems like missing the point.

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I mean I get it but not acknowledging that sometime in the future, the band-aid will have to be torn off, and not talking about what would is the best way to do so is not helping either.

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Sure, that would be an interesting conversation to have. But that's not what anyone's doing. Complaining that asm.js piggybacks off JavaScript instead of being a bytecode for which no interpreters currently exist — which is what you and fijal seem to be doing — is not "talking about what would be the best way to do that."

In case you've forgotten, your suggestion in the other thread was literally just "a standardized VM in the browser." When I tried to get you to elaborate on what that meant in practical terms, you couldn't explain how it would be any different from what we have with asm.js except that you want a bytecode syntax for the input instead of the syntax asm.js uses.

If you want to talk about practical ways we might move beyond JavaScript someday, feel free. I think that's an interesting topic. That's why I think it's unfortunate that so far, people just seem to be complaining that asm.js doesn't involve bytecode.

Personally, I think asm.js is an important step in the direction of a post-JavaScript world. It moves us away from dependence on JavaScript by helping to better enable alternative languages in the browser.

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I'm not complaining about asm.js, it's more that I feel like the hole we (and I don't mean I personally) are digging is getting deeper and deeper and switching is only getting less and less likely.

When you say that I could not explain how would it be different, maybe I just did not notice your response which is why I did not respond (and the last response is where you asked how is having JS as bytecode that different from any other bytecode).

How would it be different? I mean it's not that I insist on the bytecode for the sake of having bytecode (I kind of hint at that several times in the last thread, but I guess I could have been more explicit). It's more that I feel that some sort of fundamental change in the way that web applications are built is necessary. Why? I don't think that JS & DOM scripting can be pushed that much further, like I'm having a hard time imagining that say 5-10 years down the line JS applications will be able to compete with native, somewhat computationally heavy applications (which is what I assumed was the direction in which this whole web thing was going). Today, when I open some site which is written as a SPA (e.g. HootSuite) in Chrome, within a couple of minutes, the CPU goes to 100% (on i7). And that is an application that is not really doing anything that computationally expensive. And it's not just HootSuite.

So yeah, I don't really care that much about bytecode, and I realize that some change would not happen overnight. Do I have concrete steps how to achieve this? Can't say that I do.

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> I don't think that JS & DOM scripting can be pushed that much further, like I'm having a hard time imagining that say 5-10 years down the line JS applications will be able to compete with native, somewhat computationally heavy applications (which is what I assumed was the direction in which this whole web thing was going).

You're still not getting it. Native (i.e. compiled from C/C++) computationally-heavy applications is exactly what asm.js allows!

The fact that it's a subset of JS is a clever hack that gets over the backwards-compatibility problems, but don't let that fool you -- asm.js really is a low-level compilation target.

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What exactly is there not to get? It's more that I'm not sure I believe the claims and that it seems like putting lipstick on a pig.

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If you don't believe our claims, please check out the source and try for yourself :)

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Someone has to break it at some point. Making it live longer is not serving us any good. We would still be using primarily ALGOL, COBOL and Fortran 68 with this attitude

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I agree that someone has to break it someday, but that's similar to how someday I'll buy a house — that doesn't mean I'm ready today! They aren't making JavaScript live longer — that will happen regardless. There simply isn't the will among browser-makers to break it all at once, so all you're doing by breaking it is making something that no one can use because it's completely incompatible with everything on earth.

I feel like people are misunderstanding the challenge here. The challenge is absolutely not creating a proposed standard or creating a virtual machine. Those are relatively easy. The challenge is herding browser-makers to whatever solution you propose. The nice thing about asm.js is that it automatically works everywhere and it's easy for browser-makers to transition their existing products to it. Because it takes the path of least resistance, has a better chance of living up to the real challenge — gaining acceptance — than any other plan I've heard.

There are already lots of virtual machines out there. Throwing another one at the wall isn't going to suddenly bring us into a post-JavaScript world. It reminds me of the xkcd about standards:

[Situation: There are 14 competing standards.]

Guy: "14?! Ridiculous! We need to develop one universal standard that covers everyone's use cases!"

[SOON:]

[Situation: There are 15 competing standards.]

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Algol, Cobol, and Fortran are languages—but new languages are precisely what asm.js enables.

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Feel free to do so yourself. Start a bytecode project, get all of the major browser vendors to buy in, rewrite all of the APIs to work with your bytecode, and post it to HN. I will upvote you even if you fail.

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If there were a comment about corruption in politics, would your response be 'well, if you don't like it, start your own party, win the election and stop bitching'? Probably not. Do you see how the two are similar?

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In all seriousness I think headway could be made with starting a byte code project for those that want to go down this path. Your VM is going to need to run in and generate js (or asm.js subset) - or you'll need to patch IE, Firefox, Chrome etc.

The problem is of course this: http://article.gmane.org/gmane.comp.lang.lua.general/75426

Which is why there are no very high performance multi language VMs.

High level languages such as C still do not compete with hand rolled assembly for diamond-patterns or any situation where the minimum unit of scheduled work is very fine grain.

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> In all seriousness I think headway could be made with starting a byte code project for those that want to go down this path. Your VM is going to need to run in and generate js (or asm.js subset) - or you'll need to patch IE, Firefox, Chrome etc.

Well, when I was thinking about this (very theoretically) in the past, the road that seemed to me to be the easiest to take (but not exactly elegant) to get to some prototype was to have a proxy on the client that all browser communication goes through, which executes all code returned from the server and which does all the heavy lifting and returns already rendered html to the browser.

And yeah, I realize that doing a high performance VM is probably the hardest part.

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No, I don't.

Alon Zakai is just a dude who made Quake and you're bitching at him because it's not Crysis.

Maybe Alon Zakai just isn't as ambitious as you. Maybe he just wants to make the web a little bit better today and you want to make the web a lot better 10 years from now. Good for you, get to work, let others work on the projects that are of interest to them. If you succeed I think you'll be pretty darn famous, and like I said, I'll upvote your efforts even if you fail, it's worth a shot. Get coding.

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> No, I don't.

Well, I can't help you with intentional obtuseness.

> Alon Zakai is just a dude who made Quake and you're bitching at him because it's not Crysis.

Super cool argument from authority (or I'm not quite sure what argument you were making so maybe not), bro.

> Maybe Alon Zakai just isn't as ambitious as you. Maybe he just wants to make the web a little bit better today and you want to make the web a lot better 10 years from now. Good for you, get to work, let others work on the projects that are of interest to them. If you succeed I think you'll be pretty darn famous, and like I said, I'll upvote your efforts even if you fail, it's worth a shot. Get coding.

No shizzle that if someone builds this they would be famous. Also, I was not convinced if it would be worthile for me to sink any time into this until you said that you'd upvote me, but now that that division of labor is established, there is nothing in the way.

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