Rules of the Game

In 10 years of relatively heavy kayaking, a few scary rapids stand out. The Chatooga River had many such rapids. Bull Sluice on the Chatooga had a waterfall pouring through a hole in the riverbed. It was large enough on one end to admit a kayaker, but not big enough to let him back out. Cork Screw had a violent approach and a keeper hydraulic.

Woodall Shoals was a placid-looking drop that masked a near perfect hydraulic that I considered unrunnable in my peak paddling years. On such rapids, the margin of error was frighteningly small. You walked around, hit your intended line, or risked getting hurt or dying. Those were the rules of the game.

Let's assume for a moment that you agree with the premise I laid out at the beginning of the tutorial: conditions are ripe for an alternative applications programming language to emerge, because Java is abandoning its base. I'm not going to pretend to know what's next. Hopefully, I'll lay out some interesting languages and frameworks that have promise. I'll also rule out some languages right off the bat, based on the rules of the game.

If you think about it, you instinctively know that some programming languages will definitely not be the next big one. Lisp is productive, but the average Joe can't understand it. Perl is rich and powerful, but it's subtly inconsistent, and is prone to produce unmaintainable code. With a little vision and experience, you can apply a similar kind of reasoning to understand the types of languages that might follow Java. I suggest that we define success loosely: the language should be recognized widely and adopted broadly among developers who now use Java. This chapter, then, suggests the characteristics that the language should have to have broad commercial success.