Red Hat's Ceylon a Java killer? Not likely

The Ceylon project, led by Gavin King, joins a growing field of JVM languages

Red Hat's Ceylon a Java killer?

It looks like another potential "successor" to Java is on the horizon, with a Red Hat software engineer working on a language called Ceylon, which purports to fix the problems of Java but still run on the Java Virtual Machine.

Although a third party has billed Ceylon as a "Java killer," it is more likely Ceylon will join a growing list of new languages resting atop the JVM, while the Java language and platform will continue on as staples of enterprise computing. Ceylon will vie with JVM languages such as JRuby, Scala, and Jython as a new choice for developers. Java also has survived amid competition from dynamic scripting languages such as JavaScript. A recent Forrester Research report cites Java and Microsoft's .Net as remaining the most popular development platforms at businesses. This is what Ceylon is up against.

Under development by Gavin King, a JBoss Fellow at Red Hat, Ceylon is intended leverage the successes of Java while correcting its supposed failures. In presentation slides found online, King describes the goals for his new language: It would run on the JVM and feature static typing, automatic memory management, and built-in modularity. It also would strive to be easy to learn.

Ceylon arose out of frustrations with Java, such as it "being joined at the hip to XML" -- which King said hurts developers -- and the absence of a good way to design a user interface in Java. A lack of language-level modularity and issues in Java meta-programming were also cited. Frustration with the Java SE (Standard Edition) SDK is a problem, as well; King says the SDK lacks modernization, is bloated, and makes basic tasks difficult to accomplish.

In his presentation, King expressed support for Java, citing benefits such as its focus on solving business computing problems and commitment to platform independence and portability. According to a blog post, King denies any intention to build some sort of Java killer: "First, I never billed this as a Java Killer or the next generation of the Java language. Not my words. Ceylon isn't Java, it's a new language that's deeply influenced by Java, designed by people who are unapologetic fans of Java. Java's not dying anytime soon, so nothing's killing it."

He's right. Java stands as a staple of enterprise computing. Although it remains to be seen whether developers will be eager to learn yet another new language (a Ceylon compiler is due later this year), there is plenty of room in the pool, so let's wait and see what the project produces.

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