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Will JavaScript Become the New BASIC?

In a well known article written last year, Tim O'Reilly posed the question "What Is Web 2.0?"

Only a year later, Web 2.0 is becoming familiar territory.

Web 2.0 is, in essence, a web open to participatory content creation: blogging, sharing photos, contributing research to wikis, etc.

New web sites, web technologies, development tools, and design methodologies gained popularity and helped make Web 2.0 happen. The conceptual essence is, however, democratized participation.

The Democratization of Development

What is the next step after participation? I would say the democratization of development, enabling the exponential acceleration of online web application creation.

As an example, we can look at how content aggregation has evolved. Web 2.0 gave us RSS, which enabled end-users to repurpose content in a myriad of ways. Then came online news vetting communities, such as Digg and Reddit, that allowed content to be determined by the community: vetted, commented on, and remixed. Looking at this progression, the next logical step could be the creation of customizable online news vetting applications.

Digg, for example, has recently gotten flack for its lack of transparency and statistics that show a concentration of publishing power by an elite few.

What if Digg itself could be remixed? What if Digg users could easily add their own functionality: creating mutations, playing with the rules, and organizing Digg subcultures that embrace these changes?

It seems like an interesting possibility, but how could it be done?

Javascript: The New BASIC?

Back in the day, BASIC was the lingua franca of amateur programmers. Pretty much every computer had some implementation of BASIC bundled with it. Nowadays, however, there is no universally available language to tinker in. Or is there? Pretty much every computer has a web browser, and pretty much every web browser supports Javascript.

Javascript is, it seems, enjoying a renaissance, finally recovering from its checkered past. Development activists such as Amy Hoy are showing the world that Javascript isn't just powerful... it's fun.

Could it be that Javascript could become the new BASIC? With libraries like Prototype available, taking much of the pain from development, Javascript seems like a great entry point to the world of programming.

Beyond the Browser

Javascript could be the new BASIC, but so what? An application that runs in the browser, but has no interaction with the outside world, is not going to change the world. There are, however, ways to read and store external data via Javascript. An open source project has made Amazon's S3 service available via Javascript!

Another useful way to access external data would be an AJAX service that would proxy requests to other servers, relaying results in JavaScript Object Notation. What would Javascript hackers do with an array of AJAX-available web services?