JavaOpen Source Languages in 2010: Developer Year in Review

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2010 was a busy year for open source programming languages, with major new releases and upheavals that will shape the development landscape for years to come.

Java, Ruby, PHP, Perl and Python all had language and related tools releases this year with cloud development a key focus for most of them.

Java Undergoes Big Changes in 2010

For Java, 2010 was a milestone year as control of Java shifted from Sun to Oracle. At Java One, Oracle revealed its plans for Java 7 and 8 in an effort to push Java forward. In early December, the Executive Committee of the Java Community Process (JCP) voted on and approved the technical specifications for Java 7 and 8.

The vote on Java 7 and 8 was not without its detractors, most notably the Apache Software Foundation. At issue for Apache is the TCK (Technical Compatibility Kit) and its associated license, which Apache doesn’t see as being open source friendly. As a follow-up to its objections, Apache has since resigned its seat on the Executive Committee of the JCP.

While Apache demonstrated its opposition to Oracle’s leadership, others embraced it. In October, after years of dispute, IBM joined Oracle in the OpenJDK effort for an open source implementation of the Java specifications.

In terms of tools and servers, 2010 was a year of plenty for Java users. Though Apache ended the year on a rough note with the JCP, a pair of major Apache releases during the year will impact Java developers well into 2011. Apache Maven 3 was released in October, providing Java developers with significant performance and feature improvements, and 2010 also marked the formal debut of Apache Tomcat 7 in July. Tomcat 7 leverages some of the new JavaEE 6 specifications formally ratified at the end of 2009, and it includes additional performance and security features.

The biggest Java tools release of the year, however, was the Eclipse Helios release in July. Helios included 39 project releases for Java tools.

PHP in 2010: Tools and a Big Test

One of the major tool updates in the Eclipse Helios release was the PDT (PHP Developer Tools) 2.2 release. The PDT 2.2 release was the core underpinning for the commercial Zend Studio 8.0 IDE, which was released in November at ZendCon.

Zend Framework 1.11, which was released at the same time as Zend Studio 8, updated the core PHP application framework, providing new cloud-enabled features for PHP developers. Moving forward, Zend detailed its plans for building a new PHP Cloud Application Platform ecosystem to further enable PHP development in the cloud.

PHP also faced challenges in 2010. Perhaps the fiercest challenge was the Month of PHP Security (MOPS) event in May. During MOPS, security researchers hit PHP with a barrage of more than 60 security issues. At the time, Zend CEO Andi Gutmans said that none of the reported MOPS issues was critical and as such he didn’t consider any of them to be zero-day flaws.

Ruby Breaks Through in 2010

With new language, framework, cloud and business developments, 2010 was also a breakout year for Ruby.

The biggest Ruby event of the year was the formal release of Ruby on Rails 3 in August, after nearly two years of development. The Ruby on Rails 3 release marked the integration of the Merb framework with Rails, providing new programming and feature modularity for developers.

The Ruby language itself also got an important update in August with the Ruby 1.9.2 release. At the time, Nic Williams, vice president of technology at Engine Yard, called the Ruby 1.9.2 release the first production-ready 1.9 implementation.

Ruby also benefited from the new Fog open source effort, which gained commercial backing in October. The aim of the Fog project is to ease cloud interoperability for Ruby developers.

From a business perspective, Ruby got a strong vote of confidence from software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendor In early December, announced the acquisition of Ruby cloud vendor Heroku for $212 million.

“Ruby is the future,” George Hu, executive vice president of platform and marketing at, said in a press conference announcing the deal.

Perl Productivity Boost in 2010

Perl developers got one major update during the year, which had the goal of helping to improve developer productivity.

In April, Perl 5.12 was released, adding support for pluggable keywords.

“The pluggable keyword mechanism hooks directly into the parser, so the mechanism allows the implementation of that keyword to define the syntax of the rest of the statement,” Jan Dubois, a senior developer at ActiveState, told at the time.

Software developer ActiveState, also had a major Perl tools update during the year with the release of PDK (Perl Development Kit) 9. In addition to having support for Perl 5.12, PDK 9 provides developers with Perl deployment tools, including one that enables Perl developers to package Perl code into a Windows executable file.

Python Moves to 3.x in 2010

For Python developers and users, 2010 marked the end of the line for the Python 2.x release. In July, Python 2.7 was released marking the last major release for Python 2.x. Developers are now being pushed to use Python 3.x series.

“Most people are still on 2.x, but are probably eyeing 3.x and considering their eventual porting plans,” Benjamin Peterson, the release manager for Python 2.7, told at the time.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

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