[E-Lang] language popularity
Sat, 07 Jul 2001 12:08:06 -0700
The thesis is that for a new language to become popular in today's world, it
must be backed by a gorilla-sized organization (IBM backed PL/1, DOD backed
Ada, MS backed VB, Sun/Oracle/Netscape backed Java, and they only succeeded
because they rode the crest of the Internet wave and maybe also because IBM
soon got on board in a big way) or it must have a fully-featured open-source
C++ now has a full open-source implementation, but I think its userbase grew to
almost-popular size before the open-source implementation was fully
featured. it was backed by ATT, which was at the time the largest single
user of systems programmers, but had oddly little influence on software
developers outside its own walls. can anyone say more about C++'s history?
judging by traffic on the comp.lang.* newsgroups, VB, C, C++, Java, Perl and
maybe Python and Unix shell were the only massively popular languages 3 or 4
years ago. Python had about 600 messages a month of newsgroup traffic --the
others all had 1500-4000 except for Unix shell. damn if I can remember how much
comp.unix.shell got; it consistently got about as much as comp.unix.programmer
and comp.unix.questions got, but I cannot remember whether that was 400 or 800.
Python traffic exploded over the next year or 2. I would call Python the
latest language to achieve massive popularity, though I might be missing one.
into the category of being swept into popularity by being backed by large
organizations (the 2 dominant browser makers). I may have forgot to measure
comp.lang.ada, but I dont think so. I think it was low-traffic. and this is
all from memory as I cannot find my notes. Of course some popular languages,
like Cobol, do not have a lot of users who also use Usenet.
Perl and Python are of course pure open-source plays in that they have no
proprietary implementations. I am curious about current traffic rates on the
newsgroups related to Ruby, another pure OS play.
lisp (comp.lang.lisp and comp.lang.scheme) had only about 250 messages/month in
traffic --low when you consider how often Scheme is used in teaching. you
cannot call lisp popular, but it has a long life ahead of it because many
programmer really care about it and because it is a wide-spectrum,
and it will probably never be used except for writing web applets;
consequently, we might see it die out fairly soon even though it is very
the functional programming languages were all less popular than lisp as
measured by Usenet traffic. there are dozens of open-source implementations of
lisps and FP languages, half a dozen of which are very mature and full-featured
and praised by their users, so OS implementation certainly does not guarantee
forth had a surprisingly respectable 400-500. forth was at the
time very strong in embedded systems. helps to be very strong in some
important niche. comp.lang.smalltalk was very low, like 40, but that might be
another community like Cobol's that simply does not use Usenet much. and I
hadnt heard of squeak yet. Eiffel was even less. Eiffel's designer
is on record as being against open source and for the reimbursement of language
designers --not just implementors-- directly by the market. you have to be
pretty unrealistic to expect to make money directly off a language *design*.
oy! (*indirect* money making, as in using the design to gain fame and using
the fame to get higher-paying work than you could otherwise, might be