Google: company of boring languages

Google's announcement yesterday of its Dart replacement for JavaScript was disappointing if not surprising. The language reminds me a great deal of Google's Go language. Both are essentially derivatives of Java, which in turn is derived from C++.

Google deserves considerable credit for hiring Guido van Rossum, creator and Benevolent Dictator For Life of the Python programming language and allowing him to spend half his time developing the language. Python's simple but powerful list and dictionary data structures make quick scripting a delight.

However, by and large the languages developed internally within Google have been a disappointment. In particular, if Google really does want to create a revolution to replace JavaScript as the primary language of the browser, why not create a new and innovative language that really allows programmers to be more productive? Instead it appears that the tech community's response to Google's announcement yesterday was a collective yawn.

As an open source software developer, I am reluctant to admit this, but Microsoft has been far more successful in supporting and promoting innovative languages than Google. Although C# is also derived from C++, it is embedded in the .NET architecture, which allows programmers to choose a large range of languages appropriate to a task. .NET even includes F#, a functional programming language inspired by OCaml and Haskell. In fact, Microsoft has evolved into one of the main supporters of Haskell by fostering the hugely successful development of the GHC compiler at Microsoft Research in Cambridge.

C++ was originally developed in 1979. Over the last 30 years, many new ideas have been developed for making programmers more productive. Some of these ideas were inspired by John Backus's famous 1977 Turing Award lecture "Can Programming be Liberated from the von Neumann Style?". Haskell and other functional languages allow programmers to develop code that is less likely to contain errors, is easier to understand and extend, works well with modern parallel computing and can be just as efficient as older languages like C++.

Why not a functional language for the browser?

Google forms an essential part of an Internet that has radically changed much of modern life. It is disappointing that its work on programming languages has been so timid.
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