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If OCaml were a car
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Date: 2007-08-21 (14:46)
From: Robert Fischer <robert@f...>
Subject: Business Adoption of Ocaml [was Re: [Caml-list] If OCaml were a car]
(This is an on-topic post, but it's going to take a while for me to get 
there: scroll down.)

Oliver Bandel wrote:
> IMHO, many (most) things that are used in industry are really bad
> things. And people insist on using bad langauges and bad systems,
> because they are accustomed to it, and some Lobbyists
> sell that stuff.
This is an academic conceit, which isn't really fair.  The problem is 
that what academics consider "really bad things" and what industry 
considers "really bad things" are two very different things.  The 
criteria for judging languages are simply different.

To business, picking a language or a framework is a matter of 
prognostication.  Few businesses are willing to carry an unsupported 
library or language, or want to be exposed to the dangers of an 
uncontrolled library, so they need to pick languages and libraries that 
have a lifespan.  They don't want to perform expensive experiments to 
see if a new language or paradigm is really going to help.  And things 
being open source makes the situation worse, not better: by actually 
spending money on things, you gain a legalistic and business protection 
-- at the level of management, contractual guaranties are nearly as good 
as reality.  And, even more, it's important to pick a popular language, 
because popular languages have a wide variety of developers to choose 
from, which makes growth a lot cheaper.

Note that none of these qualities have anything to do with the 
efficiency of the language, both in terms of processing efficiency or 
development efficiency.  They're business concerns, coming from a very 
different context.

If we want more commercial adoption of Ocaml, we need to see more 
companies (like Jane Street) which are willing to take the risk and 
adopt Ocaml.  Their successes, and the community that they are building, 
need to be advertised.  Business needs to believe that the language (or 
close derivations thereof) is here for the long haul, and that it either 
is or presently will be widely adopted.

One good way of handling this is to find and grow a niche -- this was 
the approach that Ruby on Rails has taken.  Yet it's notable that Groovy 
on Grails, by virtue of it being "basically Java" and interoperable with 
large swaths of existing application code, is posing a significant 
threat to the corporate adoption of Ruby on Rails.

I'm not sure if Ocaml has such a niche to grab onto, and it isn't 
already a popular language, so as much as I'd love to see its widespread 
adoption, I'm not holding out a lot of hope.  I think the one major 
niche we could get into is concurrency (like Brian's deferred 
monad/futures* or jocaml), but the main language isn't there yet.

* http://enfranchisedmind.com/blog/archive/2007/08/13/323

~~ Robert.