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The state of the scripting universe

Lynn Greiner | Sept. 1, 2008
With the rise of Web 2.0, scripting languages are now often considered important tools in a developer's arsenal.

Hobbs: Scripting languages are increasingly prevalent in Web applications, with PHP's growing popularity and the rise of Ruby on Rails, while maintaining their dominance in important daily tasks such as machine and test automation with Tcl and data manipulation with Perl. Python is finding increasing use in the scientific communities.

Holden: Scripting languages are being used in a wide range of application areas. Python has recently achieved increased visibility in many areas of science and engineering, particularly in bioinformatics. Three significant Web frameworks ( Django, TurboGears and Pylons) have reached maturity in the last three years.

Scripting languages have a place anywhere that a systems programming language (e.g., implementing an operating system) is not required. Otherwise they fit basically anywhere, whether it be on the server or the desktop. Python excels in all these areas!

Lam: In general, it's easier to create and change code written in a dynamic language. Much of the Web has traditionally been created using dynamic languages, from Ajax on the client to server code written in PHP, Perl, Python and Ruby. Ruby on Rails in particular has driven a lot of interest towards Ruby, and is one of the preferred platforms to build Web 2.0 startups on.

Pall: In the last three years, we've seen the adoption of very fast CPUs, namely the Intel Core 2 line. Breaking the 3GHz barrier on this architecture-and now pushing 4GHz-has sped up dynamic language code to the point where many algorithms that simply weren't feasible to implement in PHP are now possible on commodity hardware.

In the last year, I've participated in writing text analysis software for auto-classifying documents. Our initial plan was to use C to do the heavy processing and PHP for the rest. As it turned out, on midrange commodity hardware, we were able to use PHP throughout and maintain solid performance. Web applications are commonly scripted, but in my experience, even internal processing-intensive applications are now commonly being implemented in modern, dynamic, scripting programming languages. The bulwarks have been breached and progress is now ushered in. What changes are you seeing in attitudes towards scripting (dynamic) languages?

Boyd: The increased use of JavaScript for browser-based applications is sparking interest in JavaScript as a language for use outside the browser. I work on Mozilla Rhino, which is a JavaScript environment for Java, and we have seen a lot of people using Rhino on the server side to add scripting to their applications. It's a nice extension language for applications since it was designed from the start to run inside another application.

Dice: I'm noticing changing attitudes from several angles. As I mentioned before, Forrester Research released a Wave survey paper last year regarding dynamic languages. This was motivated by their noticing that their customers were using more dynamic languages and requesting information on the competitive landscape in the field of dynamic languages.


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