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Mon, 23 Aug 2004
Backdoor dynamic languages
One of the things that Tim Bray mentioned in his essay on back door technologies was that Sun should get serious about dynamic languages. He went on to say
I totally don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t try to become a world leader in this space.
I hope he'll be giving Guy Steele a call.

Bill de hÓra thinks that Sun should Get behind Jython, citing the competitive threat from IronPython on the CLR.

I think that the threat from IronPython is much worse than the Bill describes. Not only does IronPython have the potential to make scripting on the JVM DOA, it also has the power to destroy Python as we know it. Jim Huginin is going to work full time to improve dynamic language support on the CLR. What happens if Bill is right and IronPython is the upgrade path for VB.NET and ASP.NET? Microsoft will start throwing large amounts of resources at IronPython. I find it hard to believe that the Python community will be able to keep up with Microsoft if they choose to do that. If Sun "gets behind Jython", you can expect a similar activity to emerge around Jython. Even worse would be for Jython development to be taken over by the JCP, all need to be compatible with CPython eliminated. Now you have two new dialects of Python, diverging from C Python and almost certainly in incompatible directions.

If Sun is going to get serious about dynamic languages, the first thing that they need to do is make changes to the JVM that make it more suitable for running dynamic languages. Once they do that, they can stand back and let the best dynamic language win. I think this is actually what Microsoft plans to do. They don't care which language wins as long as it's on the CLR, and they are going to do what needs to be done to make sure the CLR runs good languages well. Just look at they way they are pursuing language research and folding some of those features into C# (COmega).

There's plenty of room left for advancements in languages. The problem for the JVM and CLR is figuring out how to be an excellent home for the next generation of languages. The problem for Python, Perl, Ruby, etc is maintaining the lead that they have today.

[00:27] | [computers/programming] | # | TB | F | G | 14 Comments | Other blogs commenting on this post
I couldn't agree more! I'd just raise the issue  of
Boo and Prothon, two Python-inspired languages focused towards the CLR. 
IMVHO, in the end, either Jim Huginin "imports" popular features from those (Boo,Prothon,*) into IronPython, exchanging  CPython compatibility for popularity and better integration in the CLR domain, or this might happen from Corporate pressure as you suggested. History suggests that is inevitable.
Posted by Rod Senra at Mon Aug 23 05:29:01 2004

I'll admit to being somewhat concerned about IronPython myself, although I wasn't sure why. I guess it was mostly the fact that MS had gotten involved.

But one cannot simply assume that MS will taint anything they touch. Admittedly they work under a different risk/reward than your average O/S developer, but unless they decide to really push IronPython as a technology I doubt the impact will be as great as you say. And there are plenty of non-technological reasons why they will not do so.

First off Visual Basic is firmly entrenched in the customer's minds and in MS itself. IronPython can only gain traction at the cost of VB, so any attempt to increase the mindshare for IronPython is going to start a political war inside MS. Considering that Gates has a soft-spot in his heart for Basic (look where the company started) I am guessing the VB forces will win.

Secondly MS is still trying to drag the C and C++ programmers, kicking and screaming, into C#; a clearly superior language to what they are using now and arguably a better language than Java. I doubt they are going to want to confuse the issue even more.

I am guessing (as you know this is an educated guess) that the goal of IronPython is (1) to gain more traction for the CLR as a runtime and (2) to bring a few Python developers into dotnetland. Given those two constraints I doubt they will want to futz too much with the syntax right away.

The bigger threat to CPython is the dotnet libraries themselves. These are extensive and powerful and very viral when used. Python programs developed in a dotnet environment would not easily port to CPython because the library support is so different.
Posted by
Jack William Bell at Mon Aug 23 09:05:24 2004

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