Microsoft offloads IronRuby and IronPython languages to external developers

Summary:The handwriting was on the wall: Microsoft was leaning away from supporting the IronRuby language. It turns out that was true. And ditto with its complement, IronPython.

The handwriting was on the wall: Microsoft was leaning away from supporting the IronRuby language.

It turns out that was true. And ditto with its complement, IronPython.

IronRuby and IronPython, until November 1, are Microsoft-supported and .Net-targeted versions of the Ruby and Python dynamic programming languages. After November 1, they will belong to the community and won't be Microsoft properties any longer.

For a while, it looked as if Microsoft was moving full-steam-ahead with dynamic languages. Adding the Dynamic Language Runtime to the Common Language Runtime made the Redmondians seem even more committed. Earlier this summer, Microsoft made IronRuby and IronPython available under the Apache 2 open-source license. Around the same time, Microsoft released version 1.1 of IronRuby and an alpha of IronPython 2.7.

But there were signs problems were afoot. There was talk Microsoft might be convinced to move IronRuby to the CodePlex Foundation (now known as the Outercurve Foundation) or to release it to the community in some way. Microsoft officials would not talk about their plans for the languages.

On October 21, the future became clear. Microsoft said it is donating both IronRuby and IronPython to the open source community. Microsoft is not killing off its support for the Dynamic Language Runtime, however; that will continue to be part of the .Net Framework, as it is currently, officials said today.

("Donating to the community" is what Microsoft did with Visual FoxPro and the .Net Micro Framework, as well, as Microsoft watchers may recall.)

Microsoft isn't simply casting off these languages, officials insisted. And, indeed, it does look like there's been some forethought as to what to do to make sure they don't simply whither. According to a blog post by Jason Zander, Corporate Vice President, Visual Studio:

"As part of these changes I’m happy to announce new project leaders external to Microsoft who will take over the projects and provide leadership going forward.  The IronPython project will have Miguel de Icaza, Michael Foord, Jeff Hardy, and Jimmy Schementi as Coordinators.  Miguel de Icaza and Jimmy Schementi will be the Coordinators of IronRuby.  All of these guys have worked with or on the Iron projects since their inception and I have nothing but trust and respect for the new stewards of these community projects."

Any IronRuby and/or IronPython developers out there? What's your take?

Update: Jim Hugunin, the creator of IronPython, has just announced he is leaving Microsoft for Google. He says Microsoft's decision to discontinue its support of IronPython was "a catalyst but not the cause" for his decision. Some good stuff from Hugunin's eloquent goodbye post:

"I will suffer some pain when I have to write code in Java now that I've learned to love the elegance of C#. I will suffer some frustrations when I have to use Google Docs instead of the finely polished UI in Microsoft Office. More than anything, I will always value the chance that I had to work with and learn valuable lessons from some truly great people.

"As I leave Microsoft, I'm incredibly excited to be going to work for Google. I like to build projects with small talented teams working on quick cycles driven by iterative feedback from users. I like to have a healthy relationship with Open Source code and communities, and I believe that the future lies in the cloud and the web. These things are all possible to do at Microsoft and IronPython is a testament to that. However, making that happen at Microsoft always felt like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole - which can be done but only at major cost to both the peg and the hole."

Topics: Microsoft, Enterprise Software, Open Source, Software, Software Development

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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