Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Language Is Dead. Long Live the Language!

All Souls Day is almost upon us, so it seems a fine time to be contemplating everything that has died, and everything that will.

I attended a meetup a couple of months ago billed, in part, as a discussion of the future of Scala. As you might imagine, that's a sufficiently broad topic to be hijacked in interesting ways. But one of the questions that surprised me by its frequency was: does Scala have a future?

Having spent a number of years working on a language whose niche was far smaller than Scala's, I'm accustomed to thinking of Scala as having an enormous community and being extremely well-established. It doesn't seem very likely that it could all just go away, at least not on short notice.

But I've been around long enough to recognize that everything does, without exception, ultimately go away. Scala will too. But Scala's demise probably won't come about because Martin Odersky and everyone he's inspired to work on the language will just decide to leave the world of software and take a vow of silence in a monastery somewhere.

The most likely scenario for the End of Scala is not that it instantly disappears (wouldn't all the code written in it keep running?), and we all have to start over at the beginning using the original version of Fortran from 1957. Instead, I'd expect that Scala's ideas get incorporated into something that the Scala community likes even better—a prospect that is not particularly grim, and maybe even thrilling.

Given that Scala has been less resistant to change than some languages, the Next Big Thing after Scala might just be a newer version of Scala. Then again, it might not. But those of us who, through Scala, have acquired a much richer vision of what programming is all about will never regret having learned it.

1 comment:

  1. Well said. Whatever happens to Scala will be OK, because it will leave the world of programming a better place than it found it.