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Find JavaScript Code Snippets by Functionality with Cocycles

Cocycles is a new code search service that enables code to be found by functionality. In this article, Cocycles team member Jonathan explains the idea behind this approach to code searching.

We’re all familiar with it: that moment when you’re forced to abandon your code editor, interrupt your workflow and open your browser to search for a code snippet or explanation of how to code something. It can be a time consuming and frustrating process.

For years, I’ve found myself mostly turning to familiar search engines like Google and Bing, submitting queries like “JavaScript parsing HTTP headers” and praying that someone, somewhere, has asked about this, and that someone else has provided a useful answer and even a working snippet.

Google and Bing can understand English pretty well, but they can’t read code. Sometimes luck’s on our side, and sometimes it’s not.

However, it doesn’t have to be like this. In April 2016, GitHub reported that it holds over 35 million repositories. That’s a whole lot of code lines! I’m willing to bet that most of what developers search for every single day already lies somewhere around the open-source web. Up till now, the problem has been that we can’t easily find it. This is why we built Cocycles, a search engine for code.

In this article, I’ll introduce this new tool, explaining how it works and how to use it.

Cocycles: a Functional Code Search Engine

Cocycles search interface

More than anything else, Cocycles is a method of organizing knowledge and making it accessible. Cocycles does something fairly easy to describe, but incredibly challenging to do: it aspires to be able to find every piece of code in the open-source domain, catalogue it, and make it easy to find and use. So, it needs to do three things:

  1. know what every piece of code actually does
  2. understand what is it you are actually looking for
  3. match the two, sit tight and wait for the “Thank you” flowers.

In reality, this is an ongoing process, in which community cooperation is a major key.

Cocycles is a technology that learns to understand what each piece of code does. It looks not only at the code’s signature, text or documentation, but also — and primarily — at its functionality. Cocycles understands code and what it does. It’s actually able to tell which pieces of code are best for swapping two elements in a given array, or creating a random string, and is able to identify them and even understand the connections between different pieces.

It currently supports JavaScript, and additional languages are planned later in 2016.

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