Saturday, June 07, 2008


So, here's some news: people at 280 Slides created a web application that allows you to build presentations in your web browser. It does look very nice, people are comparing it to Apple's Keynote application. All in all, yet another webapp out there; what's the big deal, right?

Well, the people who created 280 Slides were previously Apple employees. 280 Slides wasn't just written in JavaScript. No. These people created something called Objective-J, which is to JavaScript as Objective-C is to C. And then they implemented part of Apple's Cocoa application framework atop of it (named it Cappuccino), and finally implemented the application atop of it.

Now that's quite amazing.

Dion Almaer writes that

Objective-J is the language that takes JavaScript and makes it Objective (as Obj-C did to C). Lots of square brackets. When the browser gets served .j files, it preprocesses them on the fly. This means that you can do things like, use standard JavaScript in places.

Interesting. Objective-J will eventually be open sourced at, and I'll be quite curious to see what did they do. I suspect they have a transformer from Objective-J source code to plain JavaScript (presumably itself written in JS), and then the browser's JS runtime converts the source code to JS when it downloads it. But I might be wrong.

Then there's the interesting issue that Objective-C improved C with OO features. But what did Objective-J improve? JavaScript is extremely object-oriented to begin with, so this sounds more as if they wanted to bring the actual Objective-C flavor of OO to JavaScript instead, because that's what they're comfortable doing. They need to drive nails into a different wall now, and they'd still prefer to do it with their old hammer!

Don't get me wrong, I'm not making fun of them. Shaping one's tools in a new environment after ones you knew and loved in a previous environment is a valid activity if you percieve it as the path that allows you to be most productive. To build a new language atop of JS and then build an application framework atop of it, and then build a very usable and visually appealing application on top of it (very cross-browser compatible too) gets you a metric shitload of geek cred in my circles. It might turn out to be a catalyst for getting a lot of similarly nice future webapps out there. It might turn out to be the next big thing for JavaScript in browser.

I'm eagerly waiting for content to start popping up at, although of course the Objective-J.js can be readily inspected.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

zipped version of the application:

might help to build your own app based on the framework.