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montague of languages… why?

July 11, 2006

As one of our developers commonly points out, web development is an array of languages–an array that is growing everyday. On a daily basis, I probably touch bits of code in C#, (X)HTML, CSS, Java, JavaScript, legacy ASP, XML, CAML, SQL, and recently LINQ and AJAX. Want a list of all of the languages a developer might “experience”, check out Google’s programming language directory. Eesh! Another interesting read is David Welton’s Programming Language Popularity study, though a bit outdated, provides some interesting comparisons according to search results.

Of course, fun part is trying to get each of these languages to work (well) with one another and accomplish the required task in as few lines as possible. Several of my coworkers deal with only SQL or Oracle Forms/Reports all day long and laugh at the trauma the web monkey deals with in interconnecting code from other languages to provide the functionality required by the customer.

So, why do we put ourselves through this pain? While my googling didn’t come up with anything substantial, I do have a few opinions (HA, duh).

  1. The changing paradigm of programming languages between client and the web–providing client-like functionality over a thin-client web application without pushing the kitchen sink across the wire.
  2. The rapid mutation of web development to accomodate changing technology–C lasted for decades whereas HTML has changed and been replaced by newer generations within a matter of years.
  3. Multiple languages are providing the same functionality, but on different, proprietary platforms (ex: Java vs. .NET). These divergences continue to spawn additional environments (example: AJAX for .NET vs. suites such as ThinkCAP for Java).

So, I again ask… why? Do multiple platforms and environments create a better marketshare for big business or corner some sector? I truly believe that most things fall back to economics, but where do programming languages fit in and when do programmers step up and, someday, find that Eden of development that accomplishes it all? Is that even possible?

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