Speed at a Price: The Evolution of V8 and the Challenges of Research in a Billion User VM
Ben Titzer


Google Chrome catapulted JavaScript performance from a toy scripting language to a fast and smooth platform for rich applications, igniting a browser war that’s seen at least four vendors competing neck-and-neck with increasingly performant JSVMs. This talk will outline in broad strokes the initial design pressures in V8 and catalog some turning points along its history as it evolved to support new applications, new and significant language changes, and the changing nature of web applications. JavaScript bloopers, flaws, corner cases, wild crashers from the web, and technical debt all have a role to play in the day to day march of development. But is it just a maintenance mode nightmare? I argue that it is not, and outline several successful research ideas that have been conceived, implemented, shipped, and published in V8.


Ben L. Titzer is a Senior Software Engineer at Google who specializes in VM and compiler implementation. He is currently the tech lead of the V8 JavaScript VM compiler team in Munich, a member of the ACM, and a sometime PL researcher with his Virgil programming language project. In former times he was a researcher at Sun Microsystems Laboratories on the Maxine Virtual Machine project and has prior experience with a number of Java VMs including HotSpot, J9, and OVM. He received a PhD in Computer Science in 2007 from UCLA under Jens Palsberg and Masters in 2004, after having received his BS from Purdue University in 2002.