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Rich internet applications or RIAs are becoming a defacto standard for web applications. The selling point of RIAs is to provide responsive web applications that behave more like desktop applications than traditional web apps. Initially JavaScript seemed to be the only option for creating RIAs but it suffered from certain maladies, most important ones being performance and cross-browser compatibility. Taking advantage of this, Adobe came up with Flex and more recently Microsoft offered Silverlight. Both these platforms took away a portion of developers who were working on providing RIA capabilities in brower based apps.

With the popularity of Flex and to a limited extent Silverlight, JavaScript seemed to be heading for certain death until recently. The announcement of TraceMonkey from Mozilla and the subsequent release of Google Chrome that incorporated a JavaScript virtual machine called V8, JavaScript seems poised to make a come back. Both TraceMonkey and V8 have put the JavaScript engines on steroids and the reported boosts in performance are impressive. TraceMonkey is slated to be released with Mozilla Firefox 3.1 but interested people can have a taste of it by using the v3.1alpha releases from Mozilla’s web site. Chrome has already drawn rave reviews with its fast performance and responsiveness of JavaScript apps.

The latest salvo in this war between JavaScript and other technologies comes from WebKit. WebKit forms the core of brilliant web browsers like Apple Safari, KDE Konqueror and Google Chrome. The programmers at WebKit recently announced their own improvements in the JavaScript engine called the SquirrelFish Extreme. This new engine is supposed to be more than twice as fast as its previous incarnation. Here’s a graphic to show the performance boost:

According certain other studies SquirrelFish is reported to have beaten Google’s V8 and Mozilla’s TraceMonkey on performance. Click here for that study.

So is SquirrelFish Extreme the fasted JavaScript engine yet? Well we would have to wait for some more data to decide that one. But one thing is for sure – JavaScript is here to stay.

With all this attributed importance to JavaScript by the major players, the indication is stronger than ever that RIA developers would switch over to JavaScript once its major problems are sorted out. The work that is being done seems to be concentrating on this very aspect. 

Is this the second coming of JavaScript based applications? Just wait and watch.

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