Home → Magazine Archive → August 2016 (Vol. 59, No. 8) → Ur/Web: A Simple Model For Programming the Web → Abstract

Ur/Web: A Simple Model For Programming the Web

By Adam Chlipala

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 59 No. 8, Pages 93-100

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The World Wide Web has evolved gradually from a document delivery platform to an architecture for distributed programming. This largely unplanned evolution is apparent in the set of interconnected languages and protocols that any Web application must manage. This paper presents Ur/Web, a domain-specific, statically typed functional programming language with a much simpler model for programming modern Web applications. Ur/Web's model is unified, where programs in a single programming language are compiled to other "Web standards" languages as needed; supports novel kinds of encapsulation of Web-specific state; and exposes simple concurrency, where programmers can reason about distributed, multithreaded applications via a mix of transactions and cooperative preemption. We give a tutorial introduction to the main features of Ur/Web.

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1. Introduction

The World Wide Web is a very popular platform today for programming certain kinds of distributed applications with graphical user interfaces (GUIs). Today's complex ecosystem of "Web standards" was not planned monolithically. Rather, it evolved gradually, from the starting point of the Web as a delivery system for static documents. The result is not surprising: there are many pain points in implementing rich functionality on top of the particular languages that browsers and servers speak. At a minimum, today's rich applications must generate HTML, for document structure; CSS, for document formatting; JavaScript, a scripting language for client-side interactivity; and messages of HTTP, a protocol for sending all of the above and more, to and from browsers. Most recent, popular applications also rely on languages like JSON for serializing complex datatypes for network communication, and on languages or APIs like SQL for storing persistent, structured data on servers. Code fragments in these different languages are often embedded within each other in complex ways, and the popular Web development tools provide little help in catching inconsistencies.


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