The Dynamic Language Runtime

by Matt 28. May 2007 18:06

How cool is the DLR? Go and read that link; read the code and understand what it does. I'll be here with a paracetamol and a cup of sweet tea. Seriously fruity, isn't it?

Yep, that's the Dynamic Language Runtime announced at Mix 07. (We've already covered that I'm late with the Mix analysis. Get over it.) I like this. A lot. It's perhaps a shame then that I don't actually get dynamic languages (or perhaps - get the need for dynamic languages). But that's another post.

This eweek article is a good introduction, but briefly, consider this a set of BCL extensions to simplify lightweight dynamic code generation and dynamic dispatch - true late binding languages.

We're getting a few new languages out of this. IronPython's been the driving force behind all of this, and 2.0 now uses it. IronRuby is coming. The current plan for Visual Basic is to use it for VBx (VB 10). (That's a big statement, so also read the announcement from the VB team and this post clarifying future plans.) This can only be a good thing. I think we need a bit more diversity between VB and C#. More interestingly, there's also a DLR version of Javascript in the pipeline (this isn't JScript.net, just to confuse things - oh, and it's implemented in Visual Basic to boot).

(And doesn't that just make you wonder if the IE team are going to pick up managed Javascript to replace the aging ActiveScript based implementation? It's slow and prone to circular memory leaks, and .net has garbage collection and a 1000x performance increase. Yeah. 1000x.)

Did I mention it was available on Codeplex? It's currently a part of IronPython, which is some flavour of open source. This means Mono can just use it, legally. And in just 16 days, technically.

Speaking of Mono, Miguel de Icaza has had a run of blog posts about a compiler workshop Microsoft has been running on the DLR (yeah, that's the Mono guys working with the Microsoft guys. You know, cats and dogs, living together, that kind of thing). And he's looking at a Linux version of Silverlight, currently codenamed Moonlight. (Mono is an interesting project. I like the idea of .net on Linux and Mac et al, but it just makes me feel sorry for them that they have to constantly chase Microsoft's libraries - WCF, WPF, Silverlight, etc.)

But surely the most intriguing part of the DLR is the delivery mechanism. Why Silverlight? This library has the potential to have a huge impact on the ecosystem of .net. If Microsoft get it right, it's going to open the runtime up to a whole heap of developers who wouldn't otherwise have gone near .net.

And it's being delivered as a browser plugin.

Now, it does have a hosting model so that it can be integrated with the desktop CLR, but it's a bit of a surprise that this isn't being packaged in with .net 3.5. Perhaps it's just a question of timing? Is it too late in the day, and the DLR too immature? An alpha technology might very well be a better suited home. Or perhaps it's the cross platform nature of Silverlight; couple this with open-sourced dynamic language support and you've suddenly got a number of things to get the alpha geeks interested.

Either way, Microsoft are moving in some impressively different directions with this. I'm going to keep an eye on this one.

Tags:

Silverlight

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