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Bruichladdich Black Art 5

The MALT of Programming Languages

Marketing, Advocacy, Luck and Timing

This is what all “new” programming languages require in order to achieve any measure of popularity. Numerous languages are vying for our attention and their success hinges on MALT:

  1. Ballerina (2017)
  2. Ceylon (2011)
  3. Clojure (2007)
  4. Cobra (2006)
  5. Crystal (2014)
  6. D (2001)
  7. Dart (2011)
  8. Elixir (2011)
  9. Elm (2012)
  10. Eve (2016?)
  11. F# (2005)
  12. Factor (2003)
  13. Golang (2009)
  14. Haskell (1990)
  15. Hack (2014)
  16. Haxe (2005)
  17. Idris (2017)
  18. Julia (2012)
  19. Kotlin (2011)
  20. Lua (1993)
  21. Luna (2016?)
  22. Nim (2008)
  23. OCaml (1996)
  24. Pharo (2008)
  25. Pony (2015)
  26. Racket (1994)
  27. Red (2011)
  28. Ring (2016)
  29. Rust (2010)
  30. Scala (2004)
  31. TypeScript (2012)

Just to name the more prominent languages.

Marketing a programming language usually requires corporate sponsorship. Major sponsorship can sometimes be very helpful in making a language successful. Notable examples include Java (Sun, Oracle), C# (Microsoft), Objective-C (Apple), Swift (Apple), and Go (Google).

However, corporate sponsorship can also fail to help a language, for example, F# (Microsoft), Dart (Google), Hack (Facebook), and Ceylon (Red Hat). The jury is still out on Kotlin (JetBrains) and Rust (Mozilla).

Many languages have vocal advocates or “evangelists.” This can often help but there’s no guarantee. Between marketing and advocacy, one hopes to ignite a grassroots groundswell of interest.

The greatest language successes have often enjoyed a measure of good luck and excellent timing. In this category, I would place Python, JavaScript, PHP, and Ruby. JavaScript was boosted by the arrival of Node and SPA, and Ruby’s future was cemented with the Rails framework.

Python rocketed to success once people were sick and tired of dealing with arcane or verbose languages like Java, C#, C++, and Perl. Python’s friendliness and clean syntax was a joy for non-technical types like financial analysts, scientists, and machine learning researchers. PHP came at the right time for the start of the world wide web.

So what can we learn from all this? How can we improve the chances of success for these languages?

Getting corporate sponsorship is really difficult. We need to find some other way to market the programming language.

We need to be stern advocates. We need to work hard and be relentless in getting our message out to the world. Unfortunately, most languages do not have such evangelists. That’s why these languages struggle.

Who will step up to advocate for Ceylon, Crystal, D, F#, Haxe, Julia, Pony, Red?

I’ve stepped up to advocate for Pharo. With any luck, Pharo will be successful. The timing is certainly right: the world desperately needs greater programming productivity.

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