RStudio changes name to Posit, expands focus to include Python and VS Code

RStudio officials say they're not forsaking R but seeking to expand their model of open source.

Digital Transformation / spur change / provoke / incite / stir up / throw sand in the gears

RStudio is changing its corporate name to Posit, signaling the company’s plans to expand its focus beyond R to include users of Python and Visual Studio Code. The public announcement came this morning at the company’s annual user conference in Washington, D.C.

The company has been stressing that its commercial products are “bilingual” for both R and Python for several years. However, the “RStudio” brand has made it more difficult to convince companies to consider its products for Python users.

“That name has started to feel increasing constraining,”  Hadley Wickham, RStudio's chief scientist, told me shortly before today’s announcement.

However, both Wickham and company founder and CEO J.J. Allaire stressed that the name change doesn’t signify a shift away from R or a belief that Python is somehow supplanting R for data science, as some argue on social media and elsewhere. “We’re not pivoting from R to Python,” Wickham said. "I'll learn a little bit about Python but I'm not going to stop writing R code."

Instead, Allaire said they believe they’ve found a model that can reliably fund open source software with revenues from related commercial products, one that’s “sustainable and not growth at all costs” -- the latter being something Allaire told conference attendees can cause a company to drift away from its initial mission.

“I think there is an opportunity to impact the practice of science more broadly,” Allaire said.

About 40% of the company’s engineers work full time on open source software -- a total of 43, he said, not counting employees who work on open source but not 100% of their time. In 2020, RStudio announced it had reorganized as a public benefit corporation, allowing it to consider the needs of the broader user community when making decisions instead of having the legal responsibility to focus on maximizing shareholder value.

While perhaps 90% of the company’s engineers work on R now, Allaire estimates that might be around 75% in three years or so.

But while the company plans to keep a majority of its development work R-related in the short term, it no longer wants to be known by the name of its first product, the RStudio IDE. Posit’s open source IDE will still be known as RStudio, even though it supports several languages, because it is targeted specifically to R users. “RStudio IDE is multilingual … but always from the standpoint of the R practitioner who needs to use other languages,” Allaire said.

However, Posit’s commercial products will be renamed Posit Connect, Posit Workbench, and Posit Package Manager.

posit corporate logo RStudio

RStudio's new corporate name and logo as Posit.

The company is also doing work on VS Code for open source users who don’t primarily use R. RStudio recently released a VS Code extension for its new Quarto publishing platform, a next-generation version of R Markdown that makes it easy to combine text with code and export results to multiple formats. While R Markdown documents can run several other languages in addition to R, they were designed for use in R. Quarto runs Python, Julia, and Observable JavaScript natively, as well as R.

"There's never going to be one language to rule them all," Wickham said. "R has always been about building bridges, combining tools to get things done."

Other VS Code-related work is underway at the company, but Posit is not focusing on VS Code for R as a replacement for the open source RStudio IDE.

The Posit name comes from the English word posit, which means to propose an idea or theory. “Data scientists spend much of their day positing claims that they then evaluate with data,” according to a company blog post.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.