Monday, March 20, 2006

Write Once, Curse Everywhere

Like many of my colleagues, I have a torrid love-hate relationship with the Java language.

But let us not forget, it's more than just a language. And therein lies the hitch.

Steve Yegge (now at Google) put together a refreshingly non-religious series of posts about various programming languages that, in one incarnation or another, can run atop the JVM. As an exercise, he wrote a simple game program, then ported it to various languages, then wrote about the experience.

Steve's appraisal of Java resonates with me. "Java has lots of wonderful features," he observes, "but Java isn't one of them. Java's appeal as a platform for doing real work rests precisely on its strengths as a platform, not as a language."

Hypothesis: Sun's greatest contribution to the history of computing is the 'VM', not the 'J', in JVM. The 'J' part is, like a 10-year-old Ford Taurus, beyond economical repair. Yet the world continues to use it, due to virtual-machine lock-in. The barriers to exit are just too high.