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Watching a Language Lose Momentum
2014-09-03 14:09:49 -0400
ruby perl

It is a language that came when it was needed.

It helped revolutionize the web, powering some amazing sites in an easy way.

It's a scripting language. It's an object-oriented language. It shines for creating quick scripts to do things on the fly.

It built up a series of modules second to none, covering every conceivable thing you could ask a language to do.

Suddenly, people started to complain that it wasn't fast enough. It was "old." It wasn't quite high level enough.

At some point, other languages came along. Other frameworks. The wagons circled. The developers declared they'd never leave. Potential new users picked a different language, seeing this one as being from a previous generation.

Basic things developers wanted done often didn't happen because the language's benevolent dictator didn't see a need. The newfangled technologies did things in ways this little language wasn't built to handle.

A terrific language with wonderful syntax and a ton of books to teach users how to use it suddenly found itself past its peak. Those books weren't being updated so much anymore. The additions to the core language were slow and small.

The biggest booming business in the language was in so-called "legacy code" or "rescue projects," not new greenfield projects.

Such is the circle of life in the programming world.

And I'll leave it up to you to figure out if I'm talking about Ruby or Perl here. There are differences, for sure. Ruby's fate seems tied to Rails', which is a completely separate project with issues of its own. Perl's fate is more tied down to a failed Perl6 project, 11 years in the making and with no signs of ever shipping. Yet I see parallels. They're not pretty, but they're there.

I'd hate to see Ruby or Rails go down the Perl path. It's been heartbreaking enough to see Perl zombify itself over the years.

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