Monday, July 16, 2007

Why ColdFusion is not a dead language

In one of the comments to my Friday post, Barry B asked for my thoughts on ColdFusion's Strengths, and how they could be leveraged to get more companies on board with CF development. In my mind that called for more than a simple comment response. Below is the first of a series of posts exploring the topic.

Let's start by talking about why ColdFusion is not a dead language. Wikipedia defines a dead language as, "a language which has stopped changing in grammar, vocabulary, and the complete meaning of a sentence." Furthermore it distinguishes between the concepts of a dead language and an extinct language. The latter being, "a language which no longer has any native speakers" While we all know that Wikipedia is not the end-all be-all font of all knowledge, in this case it's accurate enough for my purposes. By these definitions, ColfFusion is not a dead language; it's being actively developed. While technically I suppose all programming languages fit the definition of extinct since nobody natively speaks them. If we expand native speakers to include those who use a programming language as their primary development language, then ColdFusion is not extinct either, as there is clearly an active body of vocal developers. (Not to mention the developers who just focus on getting their jobs done and can't be bothered reading stuff online about languages.)

Ok, so if CF is not dead yet, is it dying? Before we get into that we need to look at marketshare, and total number of users. These are two concepts that I think all too often get mixed up. In spoken languages, Mandarin Chinese (at c. 873 million native speakers), is pulling away from English (at c. 309 million native speakers). English is not likely to catch up in any of our lifetimes, and will likely continue to loose marketshare, but the total number of English speakers is rising as the populations of the US, UK, Canada, and Australia grow. In my mind marketshare is less important to the health of a language than total number of users. With CF, I'll concede that marketshare has probably been decreasing, as there are simply more and more languages out there to use. I honestly have not seen any figures that prove or disprove this, but for the sake of argument I'll concede that point. As far as total number of users, I have no idea if that number is going up or down. (I'm not sure if Adobe publishes those types of numbers) The bottom line here is that I really don't know if CF is dying or not. I'm not sure how much that matters though. More about that in my next post.

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posted by Luis

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