Opera Preps Super-Fast JavaScript Engine

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2009-02-05 Print this article Print

Opera Software has announced it is at work on a new JavaScript engine named Carakan (pronounced Tsharakan) that is two-and-a-half times faster than the JavaScript engine in Opera 10. The Opera team has focused on improving on its previous ECMAScript engine in three main areas: register-based bytecode, native code generation and automatic object classification. Opera also announced its Vega vector graphics library.

Opera Software has announced it is at work on a new JavaScript engine named Carakan (pronounced Tsharakan) that is two-and-a-half times faster than the JavaScript engine in Opera 10.

Opera developers and testers have been working on Carakan for the past few months and intend to make it the fastest JavaScript engine on the planet, an Opera spokesman said.

In a blog post on the new engine, Opera developer Jens Lindstrom said when Opera's current ECMAScript engine, called Futhark, was first released it was the fastest engine on the market. ECMAScript is the standard upon which JavaScript is based. Opera's Futhark engine was developed to minimize code footprint and memory usage, rather than to achieve maximum execution speed. Lindstrom added that this has traditionally been a "correct trade-off" on many of the platforms Opera runs on.

"The Web is a changing environment, however, and tomorrow's advanced Web applications will require faster ECMAScript execution, so we have now taken on the challenge to once again develop the fastest ECMAScript engine on the market," he said.

"There's been a lot of focus on pure JavaScript execution speed over the past few years as different browser makers have released new browsers or new versions of their browsers," said Lars Erik Bolstad, who heads up the Core Technology team at Opera.

Bolstad said Opera used the popular SunSpider JavaScript performance test suite -- produced by Apple -- to test Carakan and got results showing Carakan to be 2.5 times as fast as the current Opera engine, Futhark. "And where we've implemented native compilation we showed we can achieve five to 50 times the performance of the current engine," he said.

But how does that translate to improved browser performance? Well, explains Bolstad, Opera already is known as having one of the fastest browsers around. But any increase in browser performance "depends on the content" of the Web page or Web application being executed, he said. For any Web page or application that relies heavily on JavaScript, there may be a noticeable difference in performance, he said. However, Bolstad said JavaScript execution typically only accounts for about 10 to 15 percent of the total processing time when executing Web applications.

"This move is more about preparing for the future when we'll see more complex Web apps that use the Web browser as the application platform -- as we see more software development based on Web technology," Bolstad said.

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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