The June 2008 edition of the Tiobe Programming Community Index highlights the fact (in its introductory text) that ActionScript has entered the index's top twenty. This places ActionScript higher on the index than such venerable languages as Fortran and Smalltalk and above trendy languages such as Groovy, Erlang, and Scala.
I have written about things I like about ActionScript 3.0 in other blog entries, but I am using this blog entry to articulate in one place some of the things I most like about ActionScript 3.0 in honor of this Top 20 June 2008 ranking.
UPDATE (15 August 2008): The announcement this week that the ECMAScript committee has decided to move on a smaller incremental version of ECMAScript (3.1) rather than the complete overhaul originally envisioned for ECMAScript 4 can be disheartening for many of us. However, if the browser vendors are able to fully and completely meet the reduced ECMAScript 3.1 standard, that is a positive. Also, it sounds like ActionScript will continue to be a forward-leaning web language despite this decision.
What I Like Most About ActionScript (at least today!)
1. Browser Differences Are Just a Terrible Memory
2. Static Typing
At home or when working on small projects, there are many things I enjoy about a dynamically typed language such as Ruby. However, when working on large enterprise applications with large groups of developers, I have found static languages to be preferable. It is a matter of personal taste, but my preference is to have the static support (default for ActionScript 3.0 in Flex 2 and Flex 3). For those who prefer dynamic typing, Flex allows the static typing to be turned off.
3. Class-Based Object-Oriented Features
4. ActionScript is Standards-Oriented
Because the major web browsers do not collectively fully support the ECMAScript (ECMA-262) specification, this standard is less valuable than it otherwise might be. Having said that, the announcement that Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 will be standards compliant is heartening and gives us hope that web developers will one day be able to write significant ECMAScript-based applications that work across browsers. ActionScript is Adobe's implementation of what they predict ECMAScript Edition 4 to evolve to. ActionScript also provides support for ECMAScript for XML (E4X).
5. ActionScript and Mozilla Tamarin
In my opinion, it bodes well for ActionScript and developers learning ActionScript that Mozilla has accepted Adobe's contribution of ActionScript Virtual Machine to the Mozilla Tamarin project. Adobe has contributed many members of the Tamarin project and the current plans are to use the same ECMAScript Edition 4 implementation in Mozilla 2 (Firefox 4) and Adobe's ActionScript implementations.
6. ActionScript is Friendly to Java Developers
7. ActionScript Complements Other Programming Languages
With so many developers discovering the ease and power of using Flex, it is not surprising that ActionScript is gaining in popularity. In this blog entry, I've attempted to describe some reasons why I believe ActionScript is so popular for web development (and, with AIR, for desktop development). The rising popularity of Flex necessarily brings ActionScript along for the ride (much in the same way the Ruby on Rails framework brought Ruby newfound fame), but ActionScript has many positive features of its own (just as Ruby has many positive features of its own) to keep developers interested and happy.