Javascript & Finance

The 90's. Microsoft and Netscape are throwing features at their browsers seeing what will stick.

Javascript was originally envisioned as a simple language for amateurs while the pros would develop client side Java applets. Javascript was created in 10 days!

Bastardised

Broken at birth (10 days!). Furthermore, Microsoft implemented bastardised version after bastardised version ('embrace, extend and exterminate') until it became virtually impossible to develop anything non-trivial that ran on more than one browser.

Enter JQuery. A library which extrapolated away from the various versions of Javascript and papered over browser differences.

Enter Google. Their V8 Javascript engine for Chrome makes it one of the fastest languages out there.

Twenty years after Java's 'write once run anywhere' mantra, Javascript is delivering and now the world's most popular language.

Communicate Communicate Communicate

Why is it important for financial analysts to write code that can run anywhere?

Firstly, at least half your job is the communication of your analysis and there's no better way to tell your story than through the browser.

Secondly, letting the client do all the computationally heavy lifting is the ultimate in massively distributed computing.

The financial world has just started to move away from C++ and Visual Basic onto Python and R. Javascript is still a few years off, but developers get it, and it's only a matter of time before the industry smells the coffee.

Javascript still shows birth defects however.

Fugly

One of the most annoying is that by default variables are global. For example, passing a variable into a function and changing it within the function also changes it everywhere else!

Plus it's ugly. It looks like C. Too many curly braces.

Luckily, hundreds of languages compile into Javascript. Choose your poision. 'Strict mode' also helps some.

Meme Addiction

The world's most popular language has libraries to make any analyst feel at home. For example jstat, numeric and d3. [This is an excellent guide to getting started with data analysis in Javascript].

It's hard to believe that a language created in ten days has conquered the world. If you are new to programming, it was built for you. Otherwise it will annoy the hell out of you.

Perhaps it's harder to understand how such a flawed language has such an iron grip on the developer community.

However, that's besides the point.

Javascript does one thing well.

It excels at communicating ideas.