Intel launches new parallel programming extension for Javascript

Oooh, there was some hot news at Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in San Francisco for parallel programmers last week. Intel has been working on an extension to Javascript that adds a parallel array type to the web’s favourite scripting language, which means you can unlock the power of multiple cores in browser-based code.

As you probably know, the web’s the next big thing again: everyone’s talking about HTML 5, strictly speaking the new HTML standard, but often bandied about to apply to a range of technologies including the latest versions of HTML, CSS and SVG (scalable vector graphics). Together, they will make it easier to create interactive websites. At a time when devices are increasingly mobile and internet-enabled, and much of the value in our software comes from having it connected to streams of data (think: Facebook, Google, Twitter), lots of people are excited about the opportunity to create web-based software more esily. Especially since it breaks down a lot of the boundaries between different devices and software distribution channels. Nearly every device has a web browser, and that’s all it needs to run HTML 5 code (assuming the browser is up-to-date, of course).

The new extension, called River Trail, is initially available as an open-source extension to Firefox. The Register reports that it was developed independently of Mozilla, but that Mozilla CTO and Javascript inventor Brendan Eich is supportive of the technology. He cites a 15x speedup on an eight core machine, compared to serial Javascript, for a physics simulation demo built using River Trail and WebGL. Intel says the experimental technology can enable a new class of browser-based apps in domains such as photo and video editing, physics simulation, and 3D gaming for desktop and mobile personal computers.

According to The Register, Intel has expressed an interest in submitting River Trail for standardisation, which I guess means it could become a fundamental part of Javascript as we know it. Now, that would be exciting! Imagine having a parallel-capable scripting language that requires no special tools to code for, available on virtually every device. Then I think we’d really see parallel programming take off!

What do you think?

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