Facebook Creates New Open-Source Language, Hack

Facebook has created a new programming language, and released it as open source. The new language -- with the potentially confusing name of "Hack" -- is closely related to PHP, which Facebook developers have been using for years.

The open source version of Hack is available through Hackland.org. On its home page, that site says Hack is a programming language for the HipHop Virtual Machine, or HHVM, which is Facebook's PHP open source runtime environment and which will now support both Hack and PHP.

It describes the new language as operating "seamlessly with PHP," and adds that it "reconciles the fast development cycle of PHP with the discipline provided by static typing, while adding many features commonly found in other modern programming languages."

'A Great Success'

"Typing" refers to the data type, not keyboard typing. In dynamic typing the code interpreter deduces the type of variable, i.e. numeric vs. character, at runtime. This makes for faster coding but can provoke runtime failures. In static typing the variable type is declared at compile time by means of a data declaration, which makes errors less likely but makes for slower coding.

On the Facebook Engineering Blog, the company's Julien Verlaguet and Alok Menghrajani wrote Thursday that Hack has been "deployed at Facebook and it has been a great success." Over the last year, they said, nearly the entire PHP codebase at Facebook has been migrated to Hack.

The Hackers continued to say on the blog that, at the Facebook scale where thousands of engineers are shipping new code twice a day, common programming mistakes can cause a substantial slowdown.

They noted that, "traditionally, dynamically typed languages allow for rapid development but sacrifice the ability to catch errors early and introspect code quickly, particularly on larger codebases. Conversely, statically typed languages provide more of a safety net,...

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