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Beyond Java

I read Beyond Java yesterday.  In it, Bruce Tate makes an excellent case that conditions are ripe for exploring alternatives in places that were once strongholds for Java.  Bruce also tends to favor some of the same technologies that I do.  In all, I would strongly recommend this book as it poses all the right questions.

Despite the fact that I happen to agree with the answers that this book puts forward, I feel that Bruce weakens his case by prematurely dismissing alternatives.


PHP is mentioned in passing a few times, and summarily dismissed.  One of the biggest objections?  Some function names have underscores between words, and others simply concatenate them.  The truth is that this doesn’t matter.  One niche that PHP has down cold is an ad-hoc collection of one page apps that baby-sit a relational database with a web based UI.  My son’s school is a prime example.  PHP also is a good match for places like Yahoo! who want to script together core logic that is written in C/C++.  A better case would have been made if Bruce had focused on OO support in PHP (merely adequate), or on meta programming — something Bruce makes a strong case for — and is essentially absent in PHP.

Perl is dismissed as a write only language.  No mention is made of Perl 6, which (if it ever ships ;-)) will have strong support for building domain specific languages — support that is far beyond what Ruby can offer today.

Python is mentioned in a nice way, and I do believe that the Bruce’s analysis is on target here: “The biggest hurdle for Python is its lack of compelling reasons to move away from Java.  Python really needs a killer app.”  Of course, this only applies if you are coming from Java.

Smalltalk is largely dismissed for the simple fact that it hasn’t taken the world by storm in 30 years, though nice things are said about seaside.

Ruby is positioned as the most likely candidate at this point in time in a race that is too early to call.  Fair enough, though I think too much is made about the importance of a version that runs on the JVM.  Frankly, I doubt Odeo cares.  And if you have written a large web application in Java, you are likely using Spring, Hibernate, or (&deity; forbid) EJBs.  If so, then I would think that the byte code you are using is the least of your problems.  A much more pragmatic approach would be to integrate in a coarse grained manner through web services (note the use of lower-case), or in a fine grained matter through sharing a database.  The biggest issue is likely to be the sharing of things like sessions.


Overall, I think this book poses the right questions, and I agree with the conclusions.  In particular, I agree that in the next few years we are likely to see a shift from a small number of dominant languages/platforms to a plurality of solutions focusing on approachability, community, and  metaprogramming.

These comparisons have started to annoyingly not even mention Tcl and Tk anymore.  Granted, they may not be the hot new thing for web programming, but then again, neither is Perl, and it’s still on the list.  Tile has updated Tk’s look and feel, and the starkit/starpack stuff is a very handy way of deploying cross-platform applications.  So Tcl and Tk still have something to say, and they scale down marvelously - it’s possible to write useful gui’s in a few lines of code.

So: *hey, we’re still here!*

Posted by David N. Welton at

The OO support in PHP 5+ is pretty darn good. There may be a few little things here and there that are unimplemented, but you can certainly design a system using OO principles.

The larger issue, to me, is that core language designers are split between a procedural and OO mindset. Certain members strongly want to do everything using objects; others violently disagree and want nothing to do with them. It unclear (again, to me,) whether this diversity of opinion will lead to a strong synthesis or watering down of ideas. So far, we seem to be walking a pretty good tight rope.

Regardless, in reality many members of the PHP community do not program using OO, so the tools and packages for you to hook into in an OO way are far more limited than they are overall for PHP or are available in a strictly OO language, such as Java or Python.

I do feel that is a legitimate critique., but I am hopeful that as PHP 5 becomes more widespread (PHP 4 is still very popular and widely deployed), then that will encourage an OO community to flourish.

Posted by Adam Trachtenberg at

Sam Ruby: Beyond Java


Excerpt from at

With PHP5, the language is “all growed up” now, and I love it. Adam is right about the big steps it has taken in OO support; however, I find it difficult to imagine Java being toppled, or even tickled a wee bit, anytime soon. In the world of business, Java is King - the IBM of programming languages - the safe bet. I see no incentive for developers to mix ‘n’ match Java with any of the proposed alternatives, and a wholesale switch is unlikely in the near future.

Posted by Simon Jessey at

[Nov 1, 2005 07:03 PST] 16 Links

Tapestry 4.0-beta-12. The latest weekly (give or take) beta release for Tapestry 4.0 continues to narrow the list of outstanding bugs. 15 More Java Tips. launch4j 2.0.0 is a cross-platform tool for wrapping Java applications distributed as jars in...

Excerpt from Erik's Linkblog at

Beyond Ruby

... [more]

Trackback from Eighty-Twenty


Sam’s right, at Odeo we don’t care if ruby runs in a JVM. The only issue we have with ruby is the state of the libraries. It’s not as mature a language as the others mentioned. That’s a problem which is being solved as the community grows. Thankfully the open source roots of ruby mean the libraries are almost all open source and not closed like what has been produced in much of the java community.

For us what’s more exciting is that ruby is adopted by a community which is experimenting and using light weight and scalable technologies like lighttpd, fastcgi replacements like scgi, and other tools which will let us build a site which scale to traffic without undue complexity.

Posted by rabble at

If Ruby’s libraries are questionable, why didn’t Odeo go with Python?  Was it just because of Rails, or does Ruby offer something else that Python technically cannot do?

Posted by Anonymous Coward at

You read a book in a single day?  All day? 

If you’ve got some tips on speed reading, I’m interested.

Posted by Jeremy Dunck at

Also, I think Twisted is python’s killer app; its just that no one knows it yet. ;)

Posted by Jeremy Dunck at

You read a book in a single day?  All day?

It is a small book.  Well written.  I read some at lunch.  Then I finished it that night.  I’ve always read a lot.  It comes naturally to me.

Posted by Sam Ruby at

I agree with Bruce, and dissagree with Sam.  I think that JRuby is crucial.  It isn’t crucial from “does ODEO care”, but it is from “will it be adopted widely”.

Java is not a language, it is a platform. Many companies have a lot of investment in this platform. The JVM itself is pretty darn good. It can out perform a lot of C++ code (as it isn’t compiled for the lowest common denominator), and there are lot of great tools for debugging, scaling, yada yada.

So many of our clients are invested in this platform that it is hard to move over to Ruby. This is why Groovy got a lot of buzz at the beginning. It allowed you to get to a dynamic through the back door. It was the glue for the VM.

Many people would much prefer Ruby thought of course, and having JRuby is a huge asset. Now I can use it at large clients, it can work with the Java world in a nicer way than web services or Web services.  rabble from Odeo complained about the libraries. Now you have a choice of easily using a Java library that may be superior for what you are doing, and mixing and matching.

The best of all worlds.  VMs are a nice abstraction.  While we are talking about YARV and such we have a great VM on the other side of the fence. Rubys runtime is so darn poor, that running a top the well engineered JVMs from Sun, IBM, JRockit, .... is a great thing.  It doesn’t mean that it is the only choice for Ruby, but its a great tool in the box.

I hope it can happen. JRuby is around 90% of the way, and needs a bit of help.

Sam, can’t you get IBM to help out? :)



If I want to write a quick script I would much prefer writing on a Java class and start using it compared to using darn web services :)

If Ruby is then on the JVM it will grow at a different level. It will also give you a lot more choices for libraries.

Posted by Dion Almaer at

Languages and communities

The aggregator is always good for some serendipity. Here’s today’s. Sam Ruby wrote about Bruce Tate’s new book, Beyond Java: In particular, I agree that in the next few years we are likely to see a shift from a small number of dominant...

Excerpt from Ted Leung on the air at

I second your ending thought regarding metaprogramming and add that Ruby makes metaprogramming natural enough that it’s easier to actually do metaprogramming than to sit and ponder it. Personally I’d like us to replace the word with something that doesn’t sound quite so academic, though I’ve not thought of any good candidates yet.

related thoughts: [link]

Posted by Garrett Snider at

Rabble, you seem to imply that most of the libraries available for Java are somehow closed source.  I’m not sure what the exact percentages are, but it is totally reasonable at this point in time to build a complex application using entire 100% opensource Java libraries.  For those users in situations that require commercial libraries, they’re available.  And for people like me, I can pick from various Apache projects, Codehaus, Sourceforge, etc.

If you think that Python offers anything in terms of breadth of available libraries that can be compared to what is available in PHP, Java or Perl... well, I just don’t see that.  Python is a great language, but it’s a woefully incomplete platform.

Posted by Whirlycott at

Sam Ruby and Beyond Java

I agree with Bruce, and dissagree with Sam. I think that JRuby is crucial. It isn’t crucial from “does ODEO care”, but it is from “will it be adopted widely”. Java is not a language, it is a platform. Many...... [more]

Trackback from"Dion")


Two things. First it has been a number of years since i did much real java development, so i haven’t been following the state of the libraries. I don’t ENJOY programming in java and i think programmers do better work when they are enjoying what they do.

Why not Python. That’s a good question. Everybody we have developing in Ruby at odeo has python experience. Our syncr desktop client app is written in python. We also have some back end systems which use python.

The first reason we used Ruby on Rails was because rails is where innovation is happening. We get features faster with rails. It’s a growing community where people go who want to build innovative next generation (what ever you call it) web applications. The disadvantage of using django or turbogears, or any of the other knockoffs is that they are copying others rather than leading innovation with a clear vision of how a web app framework should be.

Ruby as a language has a few things which aren’t talked about but have been critical for the success of rails, and odeo’s use of ruby and rails. The most is the ability to re-open and edit existing classes and libraries. This along with mixin’s means that we can use other people’s code and extend it. Where as in other languages we’d have to fork libraries, with ruby we can simply extend them. This is a huge productivity boost. No more working around the way the library works. We maintain extensions to a dozen classes in ruby’s standard library and rails. There is some integration work when new versions are released, but it’s been minimal. Rails works because it makes extensive use of this ability to extend existing classes and libraries at run time. It wouldn’t be the same framework if it couldn’t do that.

That is the real concrete benefit which ruby gives us over other languages. It’s also why library maturity is much less of a problem than you might think.

It is possible to extend existing classes in perl, kwiki allows it for example, but it’s not part of the language and classes have to explicitly setup to allow it. Most java people would freak at the idea. I’ve not seen the pratice in python, so i’m not 100% sure if it’s possible or not.

Posted by rabble at

Java is great until you need to run on a platform that Sun (and IBM, and whatever other licensed VM vendors) doesn’t support.  I try to make a habit of not writing in any language that doesn’t work on my Mac IIci running NetBSD.  (With 20 megs of RAM.  20 megs!  Totally maxed out.  Remember when that was a lot?)

Posted by Mark at

rabble: Sure you can do the same thing with Python:

class C:
    def __init__(self, name): = name

def to_string(obj):
    return "<C instance named \'%s\'>" %

if __name__ == "__main__":
    C.__str__ = to_string
    c = C("rabble")
    print c

Not an especially fancy example. I take your points about Ruby’s benefits, but I’m not sure why you refer to Django as a knockoff? It seems to have been in use for a while. Python has fairly mature libraries and Django looks like a good framework. It’s being used on commercial sites right now, so I think dismissing it as you do is perhaps a little unfair.

Posted by Vinay Sajip at

Just doodling.

Modifying an existing class: (the example above)

C.__str__ = to_string
c = C("rabble")
print c

Modifying a class after an instance has been created:

c = C("rabble")
C.__str__ = to_string
print c

Modifying just an individual object:

c = C("rabble")
import new
c.__str__ = new.instancemethod(to_string,c,C)
print c
Posted by Sam Ruby at

I love PHP as a language which is shallow enough to fully master.  C is the only other language which ever gave me the same satisfaction or level of productivity.

But I think that the question of what’s going to succeed Java is a little loaded.  Why should it also be a server-side tool?  I’m making the move to the client side, and that means Javascript, CSS, HTML and (ugh) Flash.

Posted by Lucas Gonze at

Sometimes the dragon wins

ɥɦɐ  An advantage of declaring this page as utf-8 is that I can distinguish between somebody typing ɥɦɐ and &#613;&#614;&#592;, meaning that people don’t have to double escape if they want to talk about ... [more]

Trackback from Sam Ruby


Recent publications like Conway’s brilliant Perl Best Practices don’t strike me as the literature of a write-only language.

Perl is a pretty good Rorschach test.

Posted by Aristotle Pagaltzis at

Don Box: If you’re thinking of buying this book, you might consider buying one of these two instead. Ultimately Tate’s book winds up being an extended brochure for Ruby, so you might as well cut to the chase and buy the entire Ruby canon for under a hundred bucks and be done with it.

Posted by Sam Ruby at

The only problem I have is if I want a nice job then Java is the language.  Don’t get me wrong...all these other languages like PHP, Ruby, etc, are nice languages.  But no body cares about stuff like that.  What people want is J2EE and .NET.  Maybe someday these other languages will reach corporate backing but not now.  I want to stay away from Microsoft so I put my money and time into Java/J2EE.  Go look at the want adds.....Ruby, PHP, and all that is just a small footnote for some obscure companies.  All you will see is .NET and J2EE.

Posted by anonymous at

I love anonymous trolls, especially ironically uninformed ones.

Posted by Mark at

I got mildly alienated immediately by the suggestion that Java’s verbosity has to do with it being a strongly statically typed language.  NetRexx (which I’ve always had a soft spot for) is just as strongly statically typed, but it’s as terse as a typical dynamically typed language — and it runs on the JVM, too.

The NetRexx hello-world program is just

  say ‘Hello, world!’

where the literal is of type Rexx (a number/string/hashtable hybrid class).

Posted by John Cowan at

There is a new O’Reilly book out called “Beyond Java” that questions if Java is about it be replaced by a newer generation of languages with Ruby being the current likely replacement: [link] I browsed...

Excerpt from Thinking in Code at

On “Beyond Java”

I just got around to reading Bruce Tate’s Beyond Java. I think that the senior people in the Java groups at Sun, and all the other Java powers, should read and think about it (and for that matter the CLR people over at Microsoft). The premise of...

Excerpt from ongoing at

A brief review of “Beyond Java”

I finished reading Beyond Java last weekend.1 It’s an important book, and I hope many people read it. Tate’s basic argument seems to be that Java became a success because it improved on C++ The strong community has helped make Java a...

Excerpt from Marginalia at

Dion Almaer’s comment above about the need for JRuby being the Java platform is spot on.  Some things like web server integration, which are kludgy right now for Rails, would be greatly simplified if it were written as a servlet.  Deployment would be even easier than it is now, as well...  simply drop a war file in a directory.

Posted by Stefan Wasilewski at

Rails: 1.0

Vor ein paar Stunden hat die viel beachtete neue Web-Entwicklungsumgebung Ruby on Rails die Version 1.0 erreicht. 1.0 wie in „Firefox 1.0“, nicht wie in „Windows 1.0“. Rails demontiert gerade mit erstaunlicher Geschwindigkeit die Vormachtstellung...

Excerpt from Viele Köche at

Is Ruby brainwashing us?

Bruce Tate recently wrote a book “Beyond Java” that is critical of Java and praises Ruby excessively. The book has very few positive things to say about PHP. Well, my personal preference in terms of language is a simple clean C-like syntax. I want...

Excerpt from PHP Everywhere - By John Lim at

Isn’t Python’s “killer app” wxPython? Although it’s not an app of course but...

Posted by Harry Fuecks at

Using the JVM as a platform for other languages is an excellent idea: much of Java’s strength is in its portability and its enormous array of libraries, not as a language per se.  JRuby is one example — as is J(P)ython, which I’m surprised no one has mentioned yet (everything mentioned above by Dion Almaer as a benefit for JRuby is a benefit in Jython as well).

The presence of both of these makes the notion that “Python [or Ruby] needs a killer app” moot in my opinion: you can import the killer apps (more practically, the thoroughly tested libraries) from Java, and gain the benefits of the dynamic language on top of them.

It’s even arguable that Jython and JRuby are better choices than their C equivalents, since library support in Java is so much greater than in either language’s native libraries, though of course you get both.

Posted by quark at

Programming languages and direction

Interesting articles currently being browsed: A roundup of responses [ via Lamba the Ultimate ] to the Beyond Java discussion (first seen at Sam Ruby’s site) Coroutines were referenced in one of the above articles and are described poorly......

Excerpt from Messages from the Ether at

Is Ruby brainwashing us?

Bruce Tate recently wrote a book “Beyond Java” that is critical of Java and praises Ruby excessively. The book has very few positive things to say about PHP. Well, my personal preference in terms of language is a simple clean C-like syntax. I want...

Excerpt from PHP Everywhere at

Read a book (Beyond Java, by that kayaker)

This weekend I had some wonderful spare time, and I spent some of it reading Beyond Java, a book about the Next Language. (Spoiler: It is Ruby, or some cool continuations-based project - read: Seaside with Smalltalk. But you knew that.) The book is...

Excerpt from Olle Jonsson's Morningstar at

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