Bytecode vs Machine code

Why bytecode (or more accurately, why dynamic languages)?

  • if you have a one-off script for Ansible-style configuration management, dynamic languages are fine
  • if you have ad-hoc script for data processing etc, dynamic languages are fine (Example: Underscore, lodash for Map/reduce, Python or Julia for data analysis, etc)
  • Go (with its lack of generics by design) is ill-suited for data processing where Underscore or Python shines

Why bytecode-then-machine code?


Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer each use different bytecode, Google’s V8 compiles directly to machine code.

Why machine code?

  • because it’s C, C++, Go, Rust, etc
  • because it’s V8
  • you are concerned about performance.

Why JavaScript has no bytecode?

  • Read Axel Rauschmayer’s post here

The takeaways:

  • you need not concern about implementation of bytecode and machine code unless you are an engine developer
  • if you have one-off or ad-hoc script, dynamic languages are fine.
  • if it is a script that is executed many times (like a Web app), you trade performance over expressiveness using dynamic language at a cost that is of relative value to you
  • if the functionality is relatively static by structure or by design (like Docker, RDBMS, Linux kernel, etc), you are better off with a compiled language mainly (or should I say solely?) for performance purposes
  • The point above is best summed up by Axel Rauschmayer (as far as WebAssembly is concerned)

    it is important to note that WebAssembly code is only fast because it is less dynamic than typical JavaScript code (it uses fewer dynamic data structures etc.)

  • In short, use programming languages by virtue of its design.

Subjectivity aside, leave a reply

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