Derek Jones from The Shape of Code
The future evolution of C++, Java and Python is being driven by very different interested parties, and it’s going to be interesting watching events unfold over the next 5-10 years.
I have previously written about how the C++ Standard’s committee is past its sell-by date, has taken off its ball and chain and is now in the hands of bored consultants.
Bjarne Stroustrup was once effectively treated as C++’s Benevolent Dictator For Life (during the production of the first C++ Standard some people were labeled as Bjarne groupees); things have moved on since then, but the ‘old-guard’ are trying to make a comeback. Suggesting that people ought to base their thinking on a book published almost 25-years ago (Stroustrup’s “The Design and Evolution of C++”; a very interesting book that is well worth reading) creates a rather backward looking image. Bored consultants are looking to work on exciting new ideas. The old-guard need to appear modern to attract followers (even if the ideas are old ideas with a fresh coat of paint).
The threat to C++ is from bored consultants, each adding their own pet idea to the language standard; a situation that Stroustrup thinks is starting to happen.
Java, the language, is owned by Oracle, the company (let’s not get too involved in exactly what they own, have copyright on, etc). Oracle are not shy about asking people for licensing fees. Java is now on a 6-month release cycle (at least the Oracle version, there are Open Source implementations) and the free support only applies to the current release; paying a license fee buys support for versions older than 6-months. In the short term, the cheapest solution is for companies to pay for support.
Oracle are always happy to send in the lawyers and if too many customers switch to non-Oracle implementations, I’m sure something can be found to introduce enough uncertainty to discourage work/distribution involving Open Source Java implementations.
Will Java survive Oracle’s licensing? It is not in their interest for Java to die; Oracle will adjust their terms to keep the money flowing in, but over the longer term I think willing Java developers are going to be hard to find.
Guido van Rossum recently removed himself from the post of Python’s Benevolent Dictator For Life. One of the jobs of a benevolent dictator is maintaining some degree of language coherence, which involves preventing people’s pet ideas from being added to the language. Does this mean that Python is slowly going to be become more and more bloated? Perhaps, but I think a more likely problem is a language fork, multiple implementations of slightly different (at first) languages all claiming to be Python.
These days, the strength of Python is its large collection of very useful, commercial grade, packages, and future language details may turn out to be irrelevant. There is a lot to learn from the Python 2/3 transition, but true believers like to think that things will turn out differently for them.