JavaScript in 2015

A whole new world

In the last few days of 2014, I resurrected my long-neglected GIF-beatmatching project DJGif to throw a New Yearโ€™s party on my rooftop:

DJGif in full flight on NYE
ษ…belard playing his first set of 2015

A DJ using Ableton Live, a huge bundle of MaxMSP emitting a UDP stream of beat information (courtesy of the immensely pro Cade), a UDPย โžย WebSockets server, and DJGif pulling hundreds of GIFs off various Tumblrs to beatmatch <x-gif> on two projectors makes for a hell of a good show.

But thatโ€™s a topic for another time (soon!), because along the way I discovered some new things about JavaScript that really surprised me.

JavaScript got good

I donโ€™t just mean that JavaScript of 2015 is better, I mean itโ€™s good. Good modules, good syntax, a great package ecosystem, a sensible development workflow. This isnโ€™t the JS I knew and loved despite its flaws. This is something else.

Take a look at the ES6 Compatibility Table by @kangax for a sense of the sheer number of new features that make up the ES6 spec as well as the impressive progress of ES6 compilers such as Traceur and 6to5. Arrow functions, classes, destructuring, template strings, symbols & promises are all there and usable today. Theyโ€™ve actually been usable for a while, actually, and I was vaguely familiar with most of them, but for DJGif I added the final missing piece โ€” modules.

JSPM + SystemJS - a new in-browser workflow

SystemJS is a โ€œuniversal dynamic module loaderโ€ that works with files using ES6, CommonJS, AMD or those exporting global variables. Itโ€™s effectively a backwards-compatible version of the ES6 Loader Polyfill, which tracks the JavaScript Loader Spec.

JSPM is a package manager with a CLI intended to replace the need for NPM or Bower for front-end projects, but, because SystemJS works with pretty much anything, happily works with code from NPM or Github. Itโ€™s pretty much exactly like what the NPM team recommended as a solution to front-end dependency management on their blog.

Theyโ€™re both incredible pieces of open-source work with burgeoning communities, but itโ€™s worth mentioning that they owe their existence largely to the tireless efforts of Guy Bedford. Damn fine work, Mr Bedford.


Rather than go on in detail about how this all hangs together, I thought Iโ€™d try my hand at a screencast that shows you, in 10-and-a-half minutes, what using JSPM, SystemJS and ES6 is like. Weโ€™re going to build something that scrapes the top GIFs from /r/perfectloops and displays them.

The resulting source code and live version are up on GitHub, but the interesting bit is the process in getting there, so watch the vid.

Call for Feedback

This is my first serious attempt at a screencast, so if you watched it and have some thoughts, get in touch! And if youโ€™d like to hear about when the next one launches, pop your email in here: