Gestalt: why I now (almost) officially love Microsoft to pieces

! Warning: this post hasn't been updated in over three years and so may contain out of date information.

gestaltI hate JavaScript. I loath and despise it. I worked as a web developer for a number of years, but I gave it up and moved back to “proper” programming in part because of the growth in AJAX, and thus the need to do JavaScript. Almost exactly a year ago, I proposed the following question be put to Scott Guthrie:

Given the recent announcement that JavaScript 4 will likely never see the light of day, has JavaScript finally outlived its usefulness as the ubiquitous browser language? Is it now time to retire JavaScript, or at least to open up the DOM to multiple languages? The .NET runtime code can be created from C#, Visual Basic, Ruby, J# etc, yet all compile to the same byte code ready to run on the CLR. Likewise these days JRuby, Java etc can all be compiled to the same byte code ready to run on the JVM. Are there any plans to create a JVM or CLR type environment for a future version of IE? Or are we stuck with the inadequacies of JavaScript for years to come?

The question was a suggestion for a question to put to the Speaker Panel at last year’s Remix UK. Whilst I never asked it, it looks like someone at Microsoft has – metaphorically speaking – answered my question in the best way possible. And that answer is Gestalt.

So what is Gestalt, and why my enthusiasm? Gestalt builds on Silverlight to enable web developers to do away with JavaScript within web pages and to replace it with Ruby or Python code using


tags directly within the HTML. As Gestalt uses the DLR, this need not be limited to Ruby and Python either.

Gestalt at the moment is just an early beta, available from the Mix Online Labs. Add to this the fact that Silverlight is only available for Windows and OS X, and JavaScript isn’t quite dying just yet. With luck though, we might see Gestalt take off and spread to Linux and other fringe operating systems. Then we might finally see the death of JavaScript, and it’ll not happen a day too soon in my view.

5 thoughts on “Gestalt: why I now (almost) officially love Microsoft to pieces

  1. We hadn’t seen your question suggestion for ReMIX up until today, but it hits the nail on the head; seems like we shared the idea through the cosmos 🙂 Ruby and Python were obvious choices for our initial release because of their popularity with the web development community, not to mention some of the unique language features, their expressiveness, etc. Really, that’s one of the core pillars of Gestalt: why stop at one language when you can offer language choice for front-end web development. Having said that, in the spirit of the CLR, we really want to talk about true language choice with Gestalt. If you like JavaScript, you can pick that. If Ruby is your thing, go for it. If it’s C#, great, you can pick that, too. And, it’s a win-win because your development model doesn’t change.

    Thanks for this post and getting the word out. We appreciate the support and if you have any feedback, we’d love to hear it.

  2. I too used to despise Javascript. But I’ve recently become a convert of sorts. The combination of frameworks like jQuery and reading some excellent books (Javascript, the good bits) have made me see Javascript in a whole new light. Once you appreciate that it’s really a variant of LISP and the irritating variations of DOM implementations are wrapped in the beautiful jQuery API, programming in Javascript can be pretty satisfying.

  3. Hi Nishant,

    Thanks for taking the time to comment here. I appreciate developers of technologies that I comment on taking the time to visit my little bit of the internet to reply in person.

  4. @James,

    Sadly I suspect you are right. Silverlight seems to have failed to gain enough support to be a viable platform now. If it had succeeded, then most folk would have it installed and so your point would be moot. It didn’t though…

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