Are IronRuby and IronPython on their last legs?

A lot has been happening in the past few days in the world of the DLR (Dynamic Language Runtime).

It all kicked off on Friday, with a blog post by Jimmy Schementi, who ran the small team that put together the Dynamic Language Runtime, IronRuby and IronPython, announcing that he had quit his job at Microsoft over a week ago. In his post, he goes on to describe how the once small but mighty team he headed had achieved so much, such as the DLR, Silverlight and ASP.NET support for the Iron languages, and the beginnings of IDE support for them too.

Jimmy says his intentions on joining Microsoft were bring open-source programming languages to .NET, and promote open source practices. He says he left because Microsoft asked him what he would like to work on instead of Ruby. He goes on to explain how the team had been halved in size, and by the time he left only himself and one other person were actively working on IronRuby.

Recently the DLR and IronRuby and IronPython were released under the Apache 2 licence as we reported; some say this paves a way for them to be taken on by the community. There have been calls for the Mono team to take it on, but it seems no-one really wants it. In addition, the core components of the DLR aren’t available outside Microsoft, meaning it is extremely difficult for anyone to get involved with the project and make meaningful contributions.

There is, however, one additional point to consider on why it seems that these projects are being dropped. Tim Anderson writes that he discussed the matter with some people who work on F# at Microsoft, who say that functional programming is very much in demand at financial institutions – a big money-maker for Microsoft – where the dynamic languages don’t provide anything beyond a bit of kudos from the community for Microsoft.

It remains to be seen what future IronRuby, IronPython and the DLR can expect. Many people in the community are calling for Microsoft to continue work on it, others are calling for it to be entirely released to the community to continue work there. As always, we’ll keep you updated with any further news or announcements.

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