GO, a case for a new programming language

With the advent of Google Go, there’s a renewed debate on whether we needed a new programming language. Actually a case can be made, for a niche player or an organisation with the right momentum to develop and maintain a new programming language.

No programming language will ever be fit for all purposes. Microsoft, among others, understood this and catered for it as they created C# and many variants of CLR compliant languages. As the technology platforms evolve, it should be natural to factor in the lessons learned and try a new approach.

In fact many already maintain Domain Specific Languages (DSL) without necessarily thinking of it as a programming language. Martin Fowler, @martinfowler, talked eloquently about the subject on his blog. In the Java world for example, template engines provide a really powerful method for organisations to become even more productive. With the right architecture, a lot of development and testing time can be cut if developers and architects can set up a good infrastructure to leverage the power of these tools.

If anyone can come up with a new programming language and be successful with it, Google can. When Chrome came out we were wondering the same thing, whether we really needed a new web browser. Now then? Another really interesting thing about Google GO is that the architects made a very clever choice by making it easy to learn for C or C++ programmers. This lowers the learning curve significantly, even good Java developers will be able to pick up GO quickly. Some of the concepts of Google GO seem to be inspired from Objective C, another big win there because Objective C has some really elegant constructs.

So there you GO, building on proven concepts, just like C# did when it came out, Google is bound to deliver the goods. I expect this language to grow fast because it can potentially leverage existing libraries. The adoption will be easier when appropriate tooling start to emerge. I foresee an approach like Google Web Toolkit, as a path to building bridges towards existing language platforms or runtime engines. If the compiler is as efficient as advertised, GO might just give Google a kind of unifying language that helps reduce software engineering effort by taking away deployment platform concerns. Microsoft is busy with a similar approach, their Oslo project and LINQ efforts are indications of the sort of goal that can be sought. I can’t way to start playing with it a bit.

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