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[REBOL] The future of Rebol - achieving critical mass

From: ssutherland:avhsd at: 21-May-2001 11:13

>Hi folks >I have just been evaluating Rebol, (with the kind help of Carl and this >list) and it seems to have a lot going for it. But I am wary of making a >major commitment, as I have reservations about its future, given the RT >business model. At the risk of being flamed, I thought I would share my >concerns and see what the wider community feels about this issue.
You won't be flamed by me! :^)
>I have been bitten before by technically superior products with the wrong >marketing model - I invested in the Amiga and NextStep to name just two. A >lot of developers lost their shirts on NextStep. I fear that Rebol may go >the same way. As Windoze, VB, ASP etc demonstrate so eloquently, >technical excellence and commercial success are not at all the same thing in >the software industry.
I don't put Amiga in the same boat with NextStep and other failed technologies. Amiga did not fail. I made some serious money in the Amiga market for an extended period of time. The Amiga opened up new markets, desktop video, kiosk, government telemetry, etc. We can't help the fact that Commodore completely ignored marketing and failed to cultivate any of the new markets Amiga opened. REBOL has the chance to open up new markets as well. It is up to developers to create these markets as New Tek did for the Amiga. It is still a bit early in the game, and REBOL must press forward until a developer comes up with an idea that makes money. The key will be to find something that really can't be done any other way as easily as it can be done in REBOL. The other push could be to open up the government. Amiga still enjoys a huge base of government installations. There are some very powerful things that REBOL can do for the government, and the feds really don't care about marketing much.
>I have two concerns about the current approach: >- First, I fear that RT will fail to achieve a critical mass of users >- Second, that they will fail to achieve a critical mass of libraries and >APIs
I see libraries and API's as an old paradigm, that tends to promote bloat, and unwelcome divergence. So much can be done currently with REBOL's tremendous capacity to quickly create high levels of abstractions. Maybe a better paradigm would be the proliferation of dialects.
>It is hard to get a new language established, especially if it is based on a >paradigm that will be unfamiliar to most programmers (ie functional >programming). I suspect that it may be impossible if you charge hundreds of >dollars for the basic functionality in /Command.
Here is an interesting dilemma. While opening up /Command to the free world would certainly cause a proliferation of library integration, would it promote REBOL? I would prefer to see most solutions be native to REBOL with the integration of libraries reserved for implementation necessities. Do we want REBOLutionaries spending their time integrating libraries, or writing native REBOL code? This may be an answer that changes later down the REBOL timeline.
>Rebol is up against powerful, free environments like Perl / Python / PHP / >Ruby / Dylan / Lisp / Scheme / Guile etc etc. Most are Open Source. Rebol >is nice, but the source is closed and by charging for the basics it is entering >the market with a huge handicap, right from the start.
How much money have the developers of Perl / Python / PHP / Ruby / Dylan / Lisp / Scheme / Guile etc etc. made from the language they created? Could some of the shortcomings of these environments be due to the fact that they are free. Why has JAVA succeeded in making Sun billions, many times more that all the other languages combined. The key is to make something everyone must have, and need REBOL to have it. This is a tremendous opportunity for those of us that understand REBOL.
>So far as I can see, commercial success in the software industry is all >about achieving a critical mass of users and generating Java style buzz. If >I were Carl and his backers, I would be giving away the full versions of >/Command, /View and the application wrapper, to get momentum going.
Interesting that you choose to drop the name "JAVA" here. It is not a free environment, but Sun doesn't make all their money from Java either. This is an interesting fact that needs to be considered at RT.
>I appreciate that this would take commercial courage, but in the medium term >I think it would be much the safest strategy. With a large and vibrant >community the future of Rebol would be assured, and they could be >generating much greater revenues from selling advanced servers and >applications, specialised libraries, an integrated IDE, and consultancy than >they will ever generate selling /Core to a tiny community. With their current >approach, they may well be going up the same dead end as all the closed >4GL languages that were supposed to revolutionise the industry (remember >them, anyone?).
I do remember them, and they didn't impress me anywhere near as much as REBOL does. They died because the weren't "better enough," so nobody created a must-have application. Why should REBOL put themselves in the position of competing against their own developers? This would not encourage top professional developers to adopt the language. It will take a new company creating a killer ap, or a large company adopting REBOL solutions as an integral part of their business for REBOL to become a serious money maker. Rather than looking a languages and their proliferation, we should be looking at companies, AOL, Oracle, Sun, Microsoft all companies that leveraged software to make powerful companies. Someone will make a business model that works, or REBOL will become a gift for helping people do their jobs, but not viable for making serious money.
>And there would be a second, very major advantage. By charging for the >C/C++ API they are creating a major disincentive for the community to >integrate Rebol with external libraries. Much of the success of PHP, for >example, can be attributed to its APIs to external libraries - almost 2000 >internet related functions available at the last count. I have an idea for an >Open Source project, but it would require /Core to run and this just does not >sit well with the Free Software ethos. If Rebol is to achieve a critical mass of >APIs and library code, Carl must somehow harness the energies of the Rebol >community. Compare what is available in Perl or PHP with the Rebol code >repositories and you will see the nature of the problem...
There are two kinds of critical masses. A critical mass of users makes a language proliferate. A critical mass of money makes a company succeed. Which has made a bigger difference in the technical world, Oracle, AOL, Microsoft, Sun, etc., or Linux, C++, Lisp, Perl, PHP, etc.
>What do people think?
The last time Carl created something, it became the engine that ran the Amiga. It also created completely new markets, multimedia, desktop video, kiosks and many other imbedded markets. REBOL has the potential to do the same thing. The technology needs to stay in the hands of the person who understands it, Carl. We need to help, and making it free doesn't help.
>Geoff Kaplan
Scot Sutherland