Bionic Scripting: BigCo's Bet on Scripting

By February 8, 2010Insights
Courtesy fo Flickrs niallkennedy

Courtesy fo Flickr’s niallkennedy

Just as the “Office of Scientific Intelligence” invested millions in turning Lee Majors into a superhuman cyborg, the biggest IT companies in the world are making interesting investments in scripting languages.
Exhibit A: PHP is in the process of being gutted and rebuilt by Facebook.
Exhibit B: Python is being overhauled by Google, Microsoft and Sun (or what remains of it).
Exhibit C: Ruby is being reconstructed by Apple, Microsoft and Sun (ditto).
Javascript is being dramatically accelerated by … basically everybody.
Some conclusions:

  • scripting languages are mainstream
  • no language dominates and the Facebook move may give PHP a new lease on life (though speed was never the primary problem with it)
  • most players are converging on just-in-time compilation, often using LLVM (the JVM and CLR also do Just-in-time compilation).
  • Facebook’s “HipHop” is the exception to the hegemony of the JIT compilation technique
  • multi-language virtual machines have become dominant very quickly.
  • Sun blew a five year lead in multi-language VMs by equating the “Java Virtual Machine” with “Java” when they should have been supporting JPython way back in 1997 when it was desperate for commercial support
  • I predict that in the next few years we’ll see the same trend for functional languages.  Scala.NET and ClojureCLR are on the way. Look out for ports of Haskell, O’Caml and Erlang in the near future.