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Today when I woke up and started skimming my twitter feed, I was stuck by a flood of comments about IronRuby being somehow discontinued. Not really killed, but, as Jimmy Schementi says in his post that announces his change of job, moved out of the pool of opensource projects that Microsoft is directly funding. Justin Etheredge already commented on what it means for IronRuby itself, but I want to analyze the fact from an another angle.

Maybe I'm just paranoid, and unfunding IronRuby is just... unfunding IronRuby, but the facts are leading me to think (and might lead also other people to think the same) that Microsoft is going back 2-3 years in time, back investing in tools for Morts and undoing all the good they did to push OpenSource as a viable option.

In the next lines I'm going to tell you what led me to these conclusions.

Back to Morts

In the last month Microsoft released the WebMatrix, a new platform for building web applications, targeted to junior/hobbyist developers. Then they announced Visual Studio 2010 LightSwitch edition, something similar to WebMatrix but to produce Silverlight applications with extensive use of drag&drop and wizards (you can read more about this on Introducing LightSwitch). And finally they also announced Microsoft.Data.dll, a PHP-like data access layer, with lots of sql statements strings mixed with the code, still targeted to the so-called "Morts" (or even pre-morts).

And together with the silent unfunding of IronRuby, this leads me to think that after a few years of trying to make people developer better software, they are back in the business of building tools to help people that have no/little background build applications "quick and dirty".

I hope this is not their new strategy because, while this is good for Microsoft because more developers using .NET means more income, helping Morts build "enterprise" applications is just going to harm the IT market at whole: "good" developers that build well-crafted, easy to maintain and evolve applications will have to compete with these hobbyists that charge 1/4th of the price to build crap. And since most of the clients care only about the cost, we will end up with the IT marked collapsing, even more than now.

OSS is something you cannot trust

But even worse, people might think that OpenSource projects, even the ones developed inside the big corporations like Microsoft, cannot be trusted because they suffer the same problems of the "normal" opensource projects: the main developer can loose interest in it, and the project will slowly die.

What will happen now to people that heavily depend on IronRuby and that fully embraced it because it was "supported" by Microsoft? But a bigger question is: what if Microsoft will start removing resources out from ASP.NET MVC, Ajax Library, MEF, and the still to be released Orchard? Can developers and companies invest in the other opensource projects from Microsoft?

Microsoft made many good steps in the right direction, but with this I think they went back to their original position about OSS.

What do you think? Am I just paranoid? Or do you also think this more than just un-funding IronRuby? I'd love to be proven wrong and to hear your opinions.

posted on Saturday, August 7, 2010 7:16 PM

Comments on this entry:

# re: Is IronRuby being un-funded just the tip of an iceberg?

Left by ASP.Net MVC Developer at 8/7/2010 8:02 PM

Yes, MS needs to give reply to this. Should we developer risk our future investing our time and money adopting ASP.Net MVC, Orchard, etc

# re: Is IronRuby being un-funded just the tip of an iceberg?

Left by SlavoF at 8/7/2010 9:48 PM

Well, my first thought when I saw the news that this is sign that maybe it is not possible for classic commercial software company - which primary business is selling the software (not creating software on demand, or selling services based on software, not consulting) simply cannot develop OSS software for real.

There are many slight differences in attitude about this. OSS is about community and contributing, not just purely about gain and profit.

IMHO some people thinking in just commercial way (how is this profitable, what gain/profit give us this our investement, ...) and then simply cut off pieces that are looks not profitable enough. Like Quadrant, like DLR/Iron languages, ...

I heard that F# was picked for full productization (in vs2010) because some companies from financial sector (i.e. one of best MS customers who pays) show interest.

Phil Haack (IIRC) when asked what about dynamic languages support in ASP.NET MVC, answered that he like to go for it, but people/customers show more interest in other features which (i.e. not many peoples download prototype, not many peoples ask for this directly via MS channels, not many peoples discuss this prototype in formus, on web...), so other features are more prioritized. And when people show interest, then they look on this again.

But when you think about MS dev customers base (majority in enterprises), then maybe under 1% know that Iron languages exists, because MS do not promote them, they are not in VS, ... Kind of chicken and egg problem.

But, yes, if you choose cool, but not so well established, not fully productized, technology from MS then you are risking in some way. For example ResolverOne built brilliant product in IronPython, and now I do not like be in their shoes...

just my .02$


# re: Is IronRuby being un-funded just the tip of an iceberg?

Left by LorenzoC at 8/7/2010 11:25 PM

What is "mort", hobbyst programmers or the whole IT/IR (Internet Related, I've just invented it) business?

Lets say MS checked the numbers and they discovered an huge part of "market" is made by people who don't care of "good programming" and so they won't use MS technology unless it competes on the same field of PHP and such.
So instead of letting all those people to go away, they tried to give them MS tools tailored for their niche.

# re: Is IronRuby being un-funded just the tip of an iceberg?

Left by LorenzoC at 8/7/2010 11:29 PM

Oh about OSS, the problem is there isn't a working business model that can sustain development.
It is not that the developers loose interest and the project dies, most of the times the OSS project, when it is relevant, get sold to a big corporation, like I don't know, MySQL.

# re: Is IronRuby being un-funded just the tip of an iceberg?

Left by Max Yaffe at 8/16/2010 11:20 PM

Ever since I saw Anders Hejlsberg's talk "The Future of C#", I've had a feeling Iron* was doomed. It is in Microsoft's interest to get the DLR developed and to put one of their own languages in the scripting language slot, not an open language like Python. Why not C#?

On the programmer's side, Dynamic C# also solves another problem that I'm having trouble with -- the existence of two parallel object environments, one of .Net classes, one of Python. They don't inter-operate easily.

# re: Is IronRuby being un-funded just the tip of an iceberg?

Left by Mike Hansford at 8/17/2010 2:05 AM

I think what will be telling is to keep track of sessions on dynamic languages at the Microsoft conferences (PDC, MIX,...) In recent years there's consistently been a session or two on these languages. If all of a sudden there's no content, then I think the DLR will have been cut off.

# re: Is IronRuby being un-funded just the tip of an iceberg?

Left by Christopher Bermingham at 9/21/2010 3:51 PM

As a big fan of IronPython, I had an eerily simliar response to the recent dynamic language/RAD news. I am not looking forward to having to support 3rd party developed lightswitch projects that have no re-usable code and aren't setup to be easily tested. Perhaps the Ballmer mantra should have instead been "Morts, Morts, Morts!"

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