TypeScript is weakening the JavaScript ecosystem

| 2 minutes read

In recent months, I've noticed a dramatic increase in TypeScript packages on GitHub. I usually come across them when checking repositories of the people I follow like. Or, when I'm looking for dependencies to solve a problem in my projects. And the more TypeScript packages I'm encountering, the more often I get reminded of this little annoyance towards the project.

My context is that I've not looked into TypeScript yet. That means I have no idea how it works. Unfortunately, this is now starting to become kind of a problem when searching for dependencies. It does, when I either willingly or accidentally include a TypeScript package into my projects. Mainly because my package-choosing criteria include:

  • picking packages that I potentially can contribute to (e.g., a lesser-known package that contains well-written code); or
  • picking packages that are well-maintained by a large community but may include code that I'd not be able to easily contribute to (e.g., a popular package using a C library internally)

I've put these criteria in place willingly to achieve a certain quality standard when building applications. Either because I can fix bugs myself quickly, or because I'm able to rely on a strong community to fix them. However, with TypeScript packages in npm, there's now this opaque problem of not knowing the language or quickly telling a package's language and its community size. Also, TypeScript could be just another CoffeeScript.

So essentially, the problem is that TypeScript authors publish their packages on npm, the package manager for Node.js. And to me, that's what is weakening the JavaScript ecosystem. Since its inception, and throughout trends like Coffeescript, npm has mostly held the promise of only hosting JavaScript packages. However, this promise is rejected() (lol) by many authors publishing their TypeScript-to-JavaScript transpiled packages.

Indeed, it makes sense considering that Microsoft markets TypeScript as a "superset of JavaScript" and since it "compiles" to JavaScript, why not publish packages to npm? But in terms of equality and identity, TypeScript is not JavaScript. After all, you'd not consider C and Objective-C the same either, or would you? In both examples, the languages are subsets/supersets but were conceived with different goals in mind to solve other problems.

Therefore, TypeScript authors should, in my opinion, do something along the following lines:

  • namespacing their TypeScript packages; or
  • build and publish their packages to their package manager.

However, continuing to publish TypeScript packages to npm is, in my opinion weakening the JavaScript ecosystem as it's splitting its community and polluting the npm namespace.

Controversy

  • For a short time, there was an intense conversation on Hacker News. But for unknown reasons, my post got marked as [flagged]. I've written an email to the operators.