16 August 2008

a language can be successful so long as it resists the temptation to innovate

An interview with Neil Gafter on Java 7 features

One of the comments was that a language can be successful so long as it resists the temptation to innovate. What are your thoughts on that?
Well… Let me put it this way: when Java was first released upon the world, most of the people who looked at it seriously were C and some C++ programmers. And it was seen as a huge innovation, and I don't necessarily mean that in a positive sense. People were saying: "Are you serious that you expect me to use garbage collection in a production context? And a VM instead of a compiler?" There were a lot of things that were tried-and-true in the sense of having been around for a long time and proven themselves from a software engineering perspective, but simply were not widely deployed, things that have been in the universities, but not out in the production world. In retrospect we can say that the things that Java added to C were not new, were not inventions, were not brand-new ideas that hadn't been around before. They were ideas that had proven themselves already but had not been widely deployed. There are a lot of ideas that have proven themselves but have not been widely deployed, that are not in Java, in fact there are ideas that have proven themselves and been widely deployed and yet are not in Java. We're probably more likely to be successful adding things that are not being added to a language for the first time. So I would largely agree with his comment.