Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Announcing the Great Rewrite

It has become increasingly clear during the last few years that the current wxWidgets code base is simply too out of date for the present day connected, mobile, cloud-based computing world. So, after a deep and careful consideration, we have decided to launch a new project, wxWidgets 2020, which will allow us to remedy this.

The major change to be done in the framework of this project is to switch the implementation language of the library. Clearly, nothing worthwhile can be written nowadays in anything other than JavaScript. While we unfortunately wasted our chance to port wxWidgets to Java in the nineties and thus completely missed the Java desktop revolution, we still can correct this by using JavaScript which, as a language, combines the unparalleled elegance and efficiency of Java with great scripting support (as obviously follows from its name). JavaScript is clearly the language of the future as in addition to the its brilliant success on the client side, it is now even displacing the pinnacle of software engineering which is PHP on the server side, thanks to amazing innovations such as reimplementation of the best features of Windows 3.1 in node.js. Moreover, by using JavaScript we will finally be able to increase the visibility of wxWidgets by hopefully appearing more often in security advisories, which was difficult for us so far due to the total lack of support for XSS and CSRF in C++.

Of course, we, wxWidgets developers, take the backwards compatibility seriously and so we have also thought of a couple of the current users of the library who might have some existing C++ code. Luckily, migrating it to wxWidgets 2020 should be easy to do as you'd simply need to recompile it using asm.js which will be proven to work flawlessly as soon as we test it. And if it ever doesn't, there is always the fall back solution of continuing to run the existing code unchanged inside a virtual machine running inside the web browser -- after all, the modern hardware is largely fast enough to allow doing this, and it would be a pity to keep these CPUs idle.

Finally, the most difficult aspect of this decision was, as usual, choosing the name. After a long and agonizing discussions, we agreed on 2020 which gives us a reasonable amount of time before the release (while releasing wxWidgets 3.0 did take more than 6 years, we are confident that things will happen much faster now that we have the magic of JavaScript at our disposal). And if we miss that deadline, we can always pretend that the name was just a play on "Web 2.0" (only twice as much). As you can see, we have thought of everything. Watch this space!

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