Facebook just released a new programming language — aptly named Hack — that will let programmers write code faster while more easily avoiding errors.
Hack hits a sweet-spot by combining elements of both static and dynamic languages. Meaning, programmers can retain all the speed they’d have with a dynamic language (like PHP or Ruby), while also catching mistakes before runtime with early error detection traditionally only seen with static language.
The company has migrated almost all of its PHP-based site to Hack over the last year (one of the beauties of Hack is that it coexists seamlessly with PHP files). Facebook has now made the language open-source, meaning that any engineer can use it and help improve it.
Business Insider connected with Gabe Levi, one of the engineers who led most of Facebook’s conversion to Hack, and he answered our questions via email:
How do you think that other companies / programmers will benefit from using Hack?
Hack helps you write correct code faster. Hack adds safety nets while avoiding slowing you down and adds language features that make coding in Hack more enjoyable. Converting PHP code to Hack is easy and can be done gradually, as PHP and Hack work together when run with HHVM. The use case can range from one person working on an app to a scale computing company like Facebook. We’re putting Hack out there along with an improved HHVM because it can be relevant to everyone.
How does it feel to have completed a project that will increase speed for the entire FB engineering team?
It is immensely satisfying to build useful things for your friends, and that’s what we’ve had the opportunity to do.
Any moments stand out when working on this project as particularly memorable breakthroughs?
I consider Hack the product of a lot of hard work and a tight feedback loop with our original users, the engineers at Facebook. There are many great, original ideas in Hack, but our success at Facebook was the result of a lot of fine tuning rather than large breakthroughs.
Why’d you choose New York instead of the Valley to work?
The standard reason: a girl. I worked for Facebook in California until I started dating a smart, beautiful Facebook NY recruiter who laughed at my jokes. She convinced me to move to New York, which was a pretty easy sell!