Wednesday, January 23, 2008

News from Lotusphere '08

Okay, I'm not there. I'm not bitter or anything -- really, I'm not; I'm doing a lot better, but there's just so much THERE there this year (again) that I'd probably look like the sci-fi robot thinking about the Cretan paradox right about now if I were there. I can read the news releases and blogs and whatnot, though, and wrap my tiny little mind around the summaries.

So what's really big? Notes on Ubuntu is going to be big from a marketing perspective, I'd think. The Designer for 8.5 looks to be a bigger deal for folks like me, what with the Eclipse-born syntax hinting and class browser and so on. Foundations? Been asking for something like that for a while (see the ND6 beta forum). Bluehouse? Sounds good to me. Real integration with SAP? A genuine off-platform migration stopper, and a great alternative to Outlook/Exchange for those thinking of having their business SAPped. But all of that stuff is merely good news. There is bigger and better.

No, the biggest news by far in everything I've read is something that's barely gotten a mention: the xPages design element. And it's not so much xPages as a whole, but the server-side JavaScript it allows. A language with first-class functions. On Domino. I hope I'm not dreaming.

Yeah, I know that we've gotten accustomed to seeing JavaScript in the browser. It kinda seems like a toy language to most developers, but that's because they're not doing a whole lot with it. Validate this field, update that one, throw some text over here and change the colour of that thingy over there. Even AJAX, all by itself, doesn't seem like much to get excited about -- unless you look under the hood of those plug-in libraries you're using.

Most of us have never programmed in JavaScript to any extent. We may be using JavaScript to get the job done, but we're mostly writing Basic, C or Java code using the JS vocabulary. JavaScript isn't a miniature Java, it's Haskell in disguise. Well, maybe that's going a bit overboard (can you say "side effects"?), but it's not too far from the truth, either. I can't wait to see what the implementation looks like. I wonder if they'll step it up to ECMAScript 4 at some point.

Now if we could just get a Rhino-style JS engine for agents....