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Microsoft cuts loose Iron languages

Community coders pump life raft

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Microsoft has officially ended a half-decade flirtation with building its own .NETized scripting languages, and it lost a languages guru to Google in the process.

The company has handed code and project responsibility for IronRuby and IronPython to "the community," six years after it started the projects and then stuck them in limbo.

The IronPython project will be coordinated by Miguel de Icaza, Michael Foord, Jeff Hardy and Jimmy Schementi, with de Icaza and Schementi also co-ordinating IronRuby.

Schementi quit Microsoft in August, having complained about a "serious lack of commitment" to IronRuby and dynamic languages in general on .NET by the giant.

De Icaza has spent a decade building the open-source implementation of .NET called Project Mono, and more recently, he spun up an implementation of Silverlight, called Moonlight.

Microsoft's Visual Studio vice president Jason Zander spun the news thusly: "I hope the effect of the changes is to dramatically increase the opportunity for community members to contribute their own code to IronPython and IronRuby, and to actively participate in these projects."

"Community" is generally the place Microsoft sends the children to die that it cannot kill on its own. This includes projects such as the .NET Micro Framework, which was once the hope for "smart" watches endorsed by Bill Gates.

IronPython and IronRuby were attempts to make the dynamic languages of Python and Ruby run well on Microsoft's .NET Framework and Common Language Runtime (CLR).

They came from that part of Microsoft's brain that cannot accept technologies invented elsewhere. Microsoft is compelled to build its own versions of things that already exist, optimizing them for, and integrating them with, the Windows platform.

IronPython and IronRuby might well live on given the personal energy and skill of De Icaza, Schementi, and the others who are personally committed to programming, but they will likely do so without the same focus, muscle, and scale thhat Microsoft that could have brought to the table.

The kill has seen IronPython lead Jim Hugunin leave Microsoft for Google. Hugunin was hired in 2004 as part of a hovering up of scripting talent by Microsoft to make scripting languages run as first-class citizens on the .NET Framework and CLR.

Hugunin is the creator of JPython/Jython and a co-designer of the AspectJ aspect-oriented programming language that came from Xerox PARC.

He called Microsoft's decision to abandon investment in IronPython a catalyst but not the cause of his leaving, noting he hadn't been involved in IronPyton for "quite some time" - a comment on how Microsoft has shifted focus away from the remit of tuning dynamic languages for .NET.

Hugunin didn't say what his new job at Google involves, but that he would be programming on the server-side using Java. ®

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