The one dynamic language I think Microsoft needs to embrace in .net…

So a few days ago, Jimmy Schementi announced the death of IronRuby. Oh, sorry, "IronRuby isn't dead, it's just back in the hands of the community" which is essentially the same.

Now, while there may be a chance for IronRuby to survive, I personally think it's not something that Microsoft should do, so I think it makes sense for them to kill it off internally. Same for IronPython. I think the DLR is a great addition to .net though, and I think there is a far better language already available.


Many of us perceive JavaScript as a Browser-only language that is hampered by different implementations in different Browsers (textContent vs. innerText anyone?), something which is being addressed through the use of frameworks like jQuery.

But think it one step further: How many languages do you need to write a Web Application? At least two: JavaScript and whatever backend language you use, for example C#, Java, Ruby or PHP. How do you write Form Validation? You write separate Code for the Client Side and for the Server Side so that users get instant feedback without being able to compromise the system by turning JavaScript off. This is stupid and a severe violation of DRY. Also there are subtle differences between the Code, for example because JavaScript's RegEx Engine works slightly different than the .net one.

.net is at it's core a language-independent technology that doesn't only support but encourage using multiple languages. Sure, there are only 3-4 really supported languages which are rarely mixed (Some people mix C++/CLI with C# or for some COM stuff, or F# with C# for financial/statistic stuff) and some languages that have some limited support (Boo is my favorite in this category).

So why not do what's logical and embrace JavaScript as a Server-Side technology? Node.js arrived recently and showed it's possible. Microsoft already somewhat supports JavaScript in Visual Studio (although the experience is far less than stellar) and they even had their own bastard child in form of

There is a big discussion whether or not C# is a good language to write Web Applications in. People point at Cucumber and talk about how great Ruby works with the Web while C# feels like a chore because of it's static typing, verbose Syntax and need for IoC Containers to do Unit Testing properly. Other people point at the insecurity of dynamic languages, about the lack of compiler errors, about the confusion created by not having to declare variables which leads to subtle bugs like `$total = 0; foreach(item in items) $totel += item.price`.

I say: Use both. Use C# for your backend code, for your Business Classes. Get Compiler Errors when you screw up. Make sure everything needs to be explicitly casted to whatever it has to be and that all variables have to be defined officially before use. For the frontend, use JavaScript. Create your Views and View Models like you would create them in the browser, through DOM Manipulation. Write and maintain your verification code exactly once, in one language, browser and server side. Feel free to whatever crazy manipulation you need to do without having to declare and cast tons of variables. If you screw up, it's "only" your Views, not your data structure because that's C# code.

Utopia? Maybe. JavaScript is not without it's faults and it may not be as elegant as Ruby in places. People would have to learn two languages, and people may ask "Why should we switch to an insecure language if C# served us well for years?" - well, the latter people are usually the ones who don't think they need Unit Testing and believe that WebForms is a perfectly good technology, so let them continue to use it and let the rest of us move forward to face the challenges of 2010 and beyond.

Customers want better apps. They want AJAX, they want snappy, cool looking UI. The Browser market is not a "Make sure it runs in IE and doesn't suck in Netscape 4.78" market anymore. We need to create cool apps, and we need to run them on Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari on OS X, Safari on iPhone and Android. Our Web Apps need to do more in less time.

And Microsoft is in a great position because they have the foundation already built. Make Visual Studio a kick-ass JavaScript Development tool and bring it to the server side. Give us great debugging because even with FireBug and the IE Development Tools, it still sucks. Look what Node.js did. Look what you are doing with Internet Explorer 9's JS Engine. Look what you have with Active Scripting and look what you did with

It's incredible to see that Microsoft has all this technology already lying around and that no one had the idea to just combine them all together for Sure, Internet Explorer got a lot of (well deserved) crap for issues in it's JavaScript implementation, but IE9's previews look really promising.

Because let's face it: Any .net Language not supported by Microsoft in Visual Studio is doomed.