Late to the party

Something I’m really curious about is why the Java folks suddenly stood up and took notice of Ruby. Is it just Rails? Did Rails arrive in the right place at the right time? It’s not a rhetorical question – I don’t have a lot of insight into the Java world, so I’m genuinely curious as to what sparked this interest in “beyond Java”.

Python’s been around for a long time, and isn’t that different from Ruby. Tcl with Tk runs circles around Java for cross platform GUI development. PHP, even if it’s not the cleanest or most glamorous thing out there, makes whipping up small web tools easy. (I’ll concede that Perl has a culture that is too far removed from a lot of the things Java tries to do). And all those have been under everyone’s noses for years.

So why all of a sudden is Ruby the “hot new thing” that is to be embraced, rather “defended against”, as we often see in such programming language “willy waving contests”. Was this something that was just waiting to happen, and all it took was something to coalesce around? Were people in that world starting to get wrist injuries from typing out so much stuff, and on the lookout for “something else”?

Joking aside, I really am curious, because over the years, I’ve developed an interest in how these things work. I talk about it some in The Economics of Programming Languages, but that’s clearly not the whole story.

Java and its human resources requirements

Another thing I’ve been idly wondering about is whether perhaps Java got pushed a lot (perhaps unconsciously) by big companies, because 1) it is a good solution for big teams 2) some aspects of it are so big and unweildy that only companies that can muster the manpower to throw at it are going to do well with it, meaning that smaller shops would either have to not compete in that market, or compete poorly.

Obviously, it’s not strictly necessary to use Java – more often than not, you could accomplish the same thing in less time with some other system, however, the “other pincer” is the marketing out there that Java is the “serious, corporate, enterprise” solution, and that anything “less” just won’t do. This gives firms an incentive to use Java even when it might not be the best solution, and helps create a market where it’s a given that the solution is some Java system, and the bigger company, being able to bring more people to bear, may have an edge.

Anyway, just some idle speculation – what do you think?

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