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PHP/SAAS slowing core GNU/Linux development?

Posted on | November 2, 2007 | No Comments

A colleague asked me a rather interesting question today, “Is PHP and other scripting languages luring quality developers away from working on core GNU/Linux components?“. I had to put a bit of thought into the question before I answered it.

Essentially, his question was, if it weren’t for so many FLOSS web applications, would more developers be working on more importantly needed components of the GNU operating system and / or Linux kernel development? In other words, would GNU/Linux be at the front of the desktop race if so many developers did not focus purely on web applications?

I really don’t think so, and here’s why:

Most people who work strictly with forgiving interpreted languages (such as PHP) do so because they are not comfortable with the strict rules of ANSI C. PHP (and others, like Ruby) allow a programmer to just ‘make it work’ very quickly. The same people might not be very productive in a pure C setting, where they have to make their own structures, use pointers, strict types of variables, just to name a few things.

If you took all of the developers working on, say, x-y-z shopping cart and said “Ok guys, now your working on gnash, open office and KDE”, many would be completely lost. Some of them would learn, I’m sure rather quickly and start producing good patches in very little time. I don’t think that would be the norm at all, however.

What I am wondering is, will the promise of quick and easy cash (or employment) that is associated with a proficiency in PHP as SAAS (software as a service) becomes the new ‘rage’ lure would-be low level C gurus to just focus on interpreted languages? I think, yes, probably.

I see SAAS producing more qualified system integrators and engineers, but not better programmers. 8/10 clusters that I build are usually needed as a result of just bad web application design and programming.

So, no, I don’t think that desktop development is suffering due to scripting languages seducing would be developers. I do, however, wonder what the whole SAAS boom will do to the free desktop as far as luring current core developers away to more profitable things.

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