Development

This Week in Programming: Microsoft Buys Itself an Open Source JavaScript Dev Stack

21 Mar 2020 6:00am, by

This week, as much as is humanly possible, we are going to look away for a moment from the thing-that-shall-not-be-mentioned-quite-yet and gaze instead on the news of GitHub scooping up JavaScript package manager registry npm, a company that has been having a rough go of it, as of late.

Earlier this week, the Microsoft-owned (but operationally independent, we’re told) GitHub posted a blog, saying simply that npm is joining GitHub. “GitHub has signed an agreement to acquire npm,” they write. There is no mention of Microsoft here. GitHub is doing this. Some on Twitter remark on this very distinction and the impact of it.

Isaac Z. Schlueter, npm’s chief open technology officer and founder, followed suit in an npm blog post, mentioning only GitHub and not once the word “Microsoft.” Schlueter writes that “It is customary for a founder, in the closing chapter of their startup, to ruminate in a blog post about their incredible journey,” and that’s what you get — a tale of how much he wanted GitHub to buy npm, ever since he was a wee lad. In explanation, Schlueter also writes that the acquisition is “not a loss leader or an experimental add-on or a way to quickly hire a team. Rather, the npm registry is a significant and concrete strategic asset serving GitHub’s mission of eliminating transaction costs in software development.”

Indeed, according to our own coverage, GitHub “plans to invest in npm’s infrastructure, with the hopes of bringing some much-needed modernization to the platform,” also pointing out that the buy “should also be a good move for GitHub parent company Microsoft, which has been expanding its reach into the open source community over the past few years.”

This is a point that many out there in the Twitterverse have latched onto: Microsoft, not just GitHub, taking ownership not only of much of their development stack, but also grabbing an ever-larger chunk of the whole open source pie itself. Once you put the transitive property into play here, it all becomes interconnected in ways that many in the open source world have declared unacceptable in recent months.

Of course, there are benefits to big corporations with deep pockets buying out bits of the stack. As Julia Schmidt over at DevClass points out, the npm package registry will stay free “for the foreseeable future” after this acquisition. “npm will always be available and always be free,” GitHub said in its blog post, laying out a fate that was rather uncertain before the buy. Now, rather than uncertainty, GitHub says it will turn npm into a “rock-solid registry” and “ensure that npm is fast, reliable, and scalable.”

While some cite this whole thing as a reason to move over to using yarn, others propose the opposite and suggest that npm can finally be trusted again. Where do you stand on the whole thing?

All that aside, if you’re finding yourself with lots of extra free time these days, may we offer to you AlphaGo, the tale of The DeepMind Challenge Match, wherein an AI took on a Go master… and won. It’s available in full and for free:

This Week in Programming

  • “Deployless” Dark Goes Private Beta: First up this week, we have a bit of a special offer for our readers. If you’re a regular on our pages, you may remember reading some months back about Dark, a new programming language for “deployless” deployments. The approach is a bit different, in that the entire stack and infrastructure are provided and there is no such thing as a “syntax error”, with code edits being available in production in as little as 50 milliseconds. So, if the idea of such a thing is intriguing to you, we reached out and got an invite for the first 100 people who sign up to use the private beta using the following link: https://darklang.com/thenewstack. After you sign up, you’ll receive an email with your account, a link to their Slack community, and documentation. Get clicking, because those invites will likely run out fast.
  • GoLang Hits the TIOBE Top Ten: Speaking of hip programming languages, this month’s TIOBE Index has Go hitting the top ten, while also remarking that “the end seems to be near for the well-beloved Delphi language,” which has been in the top 20 since TIOBE started tracking language popularity back in June 2001.
  • Oracle Unveils Java 14: Hip languages aside, that ever-steady mainstay of enterprise development, Java, has just seen the release of Java 14, which SDTimes says comes with a long list of JEPs, or JDK Enhancement Proposals. Included among them are an improved pattern matching and the nascent beginnings of a tool for packaging self-contained Java applications. Check either of those links for the basic details of the latest Java version, or head on over to JaxEnter for an interview with Java expert Dr. Heinz Kabutz, who says that “It feels like the early days of Java.”
  • GitHub Mobile Now GA for iOS & Android: Adding to GitHub’s big week, the company released GitHub for mobile for both iOS and Android. Funny enough, I bet more of us are near our computers than out and about needing mobile, but perhaps the timing is fortuitous nonetheless. The apps allow users to “stay in touch with your team, triage issues, and even merge code, right from your mobile device, anywhere” — even though you may not currently have much of anywhere to go!
  • The New Lift and Shift: If you’re at all familiar with the enterprise lingo, you’ve heard the phrase “lift and shift” a time or three hundred. Well, now we’re seeing the lifting and shifting of real-life interactions to online. That’s right, it’s time to once again address the elephant in the room, COVID-19. SDTimes has a good little list going on of all the tech conferences retreating to online events, which include Google I/O, Red Hat Summit, the Facebook F8 Developer Conference, Apple’s WWDC20, Microsoft Build, DockerCon, and several more. None of these conferences, it should be noted, come with terrible coffee, so at least there’s that.
  • ‘The World’s First Pandemic Hackathon’: If you do find yourself with oodles of newly found free time and a desire to put your coding schools to good use, there’s CODEVID, a weekly hackathon that offers “smaller, virtual prizes, mostly for bragging rights” for “useful apps that people can use to manage and survive during the COVID-19 pandemic.” As we said a couple of weeks back, get saving the world, already!

Feature image by Steffen Zimmermann from Pixabay.

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