Multi-language runtimes

All programming languages present subtleties that I must constantly relearn. To minimize friction, I standardize on common idioms where possible. So for example, I added map and filter functions to JavaScript in order to emulate Python's built-ins. It can be amusing to create these kinds of illusions, but there are better uses of brain cells. The fact that JavaScript's library lives inside the browser, and Python's lives outside, is merely a historical accident. If I could erase that distinction tomorrow, I would.

Today the ratio of languages and libraries is still roughly 1-to-1. But the numerator will grow faster than the denominator. We don't need more of the same old ways to say the same old things, but we do need new ways to say new things. [Full story at]
The proliferation of language runtimes (virtual machines) both fascinates and frustrates me. Here on my Windows machine I use the .NET Common Language Runtime, the Java VM, the Flash player, and one VM per dynamic language (e.g., Python, JavaScript). Over on my Mac, subtract .NET but don't (yet) add Mono. On servers, add the PHP and Ruby VMs.

When people "port" applications and frameworks from one language to another, what they're really doing, in many cases, is transferring capability from one VM to another. Case in point: TrimPath Junction, a "clone or port of the terrific Ruby on Rails web MVC framework into JavaScript." Language preference wasn't the reason to emulate Rails in JavaScript. Rather, the motivation was to bring Rails-like capability to the only VM available in the browser, and thus to enable single-page applications.

If you believe that multi-language VMs are both inevitable and desirable, as I do, then there are two big questions to be answered. First, will Sun help the Java VM realize its multi-language potential? Second, will the dominant .NET VM for non-Windows platforms be a Microsoft product (WPF/E) or an open source project (Mono)?

Former URL: