Thursday, May 19, 2005

Microsoft ahead of Sun in dynamic language support

Microsoft's Chris Anderson writes:

...our singular focus on strongly typed compiled languages has blinded us to the amazing productivity and approachability of dynamic scripting langauges like Python and Ruby. I'm super excited that we are changing this. Hiring Jim Hugunin [to work on IronPython is a great start.

Jython has long been the only Python (or any major dynamic language) implementation on a Big Platform VM, and it's still substantially more usable than IronPython despite months/years of languishing while Samuele Pedroni as the sole "active" project admin wrote little code and checked in less, much to the dismay of people who wanted to work on Jython. (Not that I'm bitter.) Now that Brian Zimmer got a PSF grant to work on Jython, thinks are finally moving again, slowly.

But despite the moral support from Sun managers like Tim Bray, Sun really hasn't done much for dynamic languages on the JVM. Sure, they hosted a meeting last year on the subject, and they support scripting their NetBeans IDE with Jython and Groovy, but that's extremely lukewarm support compared to Microsoft's hiring two developers full-time to work on IronPython.

The party line, I've heard, is that Sun doesn't want to show favortism to Jython over, say, Groovy. Which is a crock; Jython is stable and fairly widely used, as such things go; Groovy may not be quite the unholy mess it was earlier this year but it's clearly got a few years to go before it gets to a Jython-like level of maturity. If Sun were interested, the obvious thing is to support Jython now and Groovy, JRuby, etc., when there is sufficient community interest.

Which is why if my current employer drops Python in favor of JSP, as seems likely, I'll probably take a .NET gig over a Java one if I can't find more directly python-related employment.

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