JavaScript Christmas

The people behind JavaScript: Yulia Startsev

A 3 minute read written by
Svein Petter Gjøby
19.12.2019

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The people behind JavaScript is a series of interviews with the members of TC39. The committee consists of JavaScript enthusiasts and language experts who get together to define how new versions of JavaScript should work.

const keyInformation = {
  name: "Yulia Startsev",
  residence: "Berlin, Germany", 
  firstProgrammingLanguage: "I did HTML very early on, but I think the first experience with programming that I had was with the GoldSource scripting sequences. I just don't know what language that was in.", 
  work: "Mozilla", 
  yearsInTC39: 2, 
}

👉 Make sure to follow Yulia on Twitter

Who are you and what do you do?

Yulia Startsev - Spidermonkey developer and co-chair of Ecma’s TC39. The chair group helps facilitate the plenary meetings, which are face to face meetings that happen 6 times a year. We also do back office tasks like helping new members get started.

How did you get into programming?

I had an interest in video games. I was really interested in modding for a while, especially half life when I was in my early teens, maybe 12 or 13. Seeing things like They Hunger was really inspirational. But, I didn't exactly have brilliant ideas at 12, so I made some weird games. One was a world entirely composed of vents. There was one room with a shark in it but no water, and another room full of the female assassins that you run into at some point in the game.

It wasn't that much fun to play.

What do you like about JavaScript?

It is a very flexible language, which you can use to program in a variety of styles. I also think its learnability is one of its key features. It helps people get into programming easily.

How did you get involved in the development of ECMAScript?

I started off by following the spec and things that were going on in the committee. Eventually when I joined Mozilla, and through a series of events I ended up going to the committee.

What's a contribution you are proud of?

At the moment I am really excited that we may bring experimentation to the language, and I am proud to have brought it to committee. We just ran our first experiment. I am still going through all of the data but it really puts a given proposal into perspective. This technique is still being tested but this would be a really amazing development.

What's an upcoming proposal you are excited about, and why?

I quite like pattern matching. I think our switch / case statement has some unexpected quirks and that proposal introduces an interesting solution that I personally like.

What is the most fun about being a part of the development of ECMAScript?

It is very interesting to hear and participate in the debate around language features. It is also a bit scary, as I feel like everyone else in the room is more of an expert than myself.

What is the hardest part about developing a programming language?

Keeping a number of different users and their needs in mind simultaneously is hard. Figuring that out can sometimes be quite tricky. It can be very hard to know if you missed something. Sometimes discussions and finding common ground can be very difficult.

What do you wish you knew before you started contributing to the development

I didn't realize how well organized the spec was initially. Reading it the first time is hard, since it is quite huge, so I was going through it piecemeal. This can give the impression that it is all over the place. It was only later that I realized what the inherent structure was.

How do you hope JavaScript will evolve in the future?

I hope we continue to be open and rigorous in our decision making.

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