28. April 2021 | Magazine:

Chuck Thacker Award for Michael Franz UC Irvine’s Michael Franz Invented Unique Compilation Technique that Impacts Billions of Web Users Daily

The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) announced that Michael Franz, a professor at the University of California and visiting professor at TU Braunschweig, is the recipient of the “Charles P. Chuck Thacker Breakthrough in Computing Award”, one of the most prestigious computer science awards along with the Turing Prize. Franz is being honored for developing just-in-time compilation techniques that enable fast and feature-rich Web services on the Internet. Every day, hundreds of millions of people around the world use online applications such as GMail and Facebook. These Web applications would not have been possible without the compilation techniques that Franz has been developing since the mid-1990s.

Professor Michael Franz from the University of California, Irvine, who was awarded the Humboldt Research Prize of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in June, will be visiting Professor at the TU Braunschweig in the summer semesters 2020 and 2021. Picture credits: Markus Hörster/TU Braunschweigschweig

Professor Michael Franz from the University of California, Irvine, who was awarded the Humboldt Research Award of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in 2019, has joined the TU Braunschweig as a visiting professor in 2020 and 2021. Picture credits: Markus Hörster/TU Braunschweig

Prof. Michael Franz has been exploring the use of dynamic just-in-time (JIT) compilation and optimization, focussing not only on static languages such as Java, but also on dynamic programming languages. Initially, such dynamic languages were mainly used in research and academic environments. This changed when JavaScript was used to create web services. JavaScript enabled the creation of websites that are almost indistinguishable to the user from previously installed utilities – for example, GMail behaves almost exactly like a traditional email program in the browser. JavaScript, like other dynamic languages, was first interpreted. That is, the program code was read line by line and the instructions were executed line by line, which resulted in poor performance.

Franz invented a new compilation technique and developed a JIT compiler for JavaScript based on this new technique. He then organized a project in collaboration with the Mozilla Foundation to integrate this technique into the Firefox browser. As a result, the use of JavaScript increased massively and today it is the most widely used programming language in the world.

“Impact is undeniable”

Founded in 1947, the ACM is a New York-based scientific society for computer science with about 78,000 members worldwide. It recognizes individuals or groups who have made groundbreaking contributions to ideas or technologies in computing with the “Charles P. Chuck Thacker Breakthrough in Computing Award”. The award, which is financially supported by Microsoft, carries a $100,000 prize.

Eric Horvitz, Technical Fellow and Director of Microsoft Research, said, ” The impact of Michael Franz’s work is undeniable. Web-based applications have transformed the field and been closely related to the growth of cloud computing. The phrase ‘Web 2.0’ denotes the world we live in now, with websites that are easy to use and interoperable, and encourage a participatory culture. Web applications also continue to have a significant impact on businesses both large and small. Michael Franz’s insights, and his successful application of those insights, have had a tremendous amount of real-world impact on almost every sector of society.”

About Michael Franz

Michael Franz is Chancellor’s Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of California (UC), Irvine. There he also directs the Secure Systems and Software Laboratory. His current research focuses on software systems, with particular emphasis on compilers, virtual machines, and related system-level techniques to make software more secure or faster. He is also a visiting professor at the Technical University of Braunschweig, where he last taught the course “Compiler 2” on advanced compiler construction in the winter semester of 2020/21.

Franz earned his doctorate from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich). He was awarded the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s Humboldt Research Award, received the National Science Foundation’s CAREER Award, an IEEE Computer Society Technical Achievement Award, and a Distinguished Mid-Career Faculty Award for Research from the University of California, Irvine. Franz is a Fellow of the ACM, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP). In 2019, Franz received the Humboldt Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.