Programing: Will Lisp Ever be Popular?

By Xah Lee. Date:

This essay is continued from: Fundamental Problems of Lisp .

Mathematica today sells for over 2 thousands dollars. Its sales record, is probably more than ALL commercial lisps combined. Such a illuminating social fact, in not known in lisp communities. These faakheads think that lisp is more popular.

10 years ago, in the dot com days (~1998), where Java, JavaScript, Perl are screaming the rounds. It was my opinion, that lisp will inevitably become popular in the future, simply due to its inherent superior design, simplicity, flexibility, power, whatever its existing problems may be. Now i don't think that'll ever happen as is. Because, due to the tremendous technological advances, in particular in communication (i.e. the internet and its consequences, for example, Wikipedia, youtube, youporn, social networks sites, blogs, instant messaging, voice and video conferencing, etc becoming household items) computer languages are proliferating like never before. (For example, Erlang, OCaml, Haskell, PHP, Ruby, C#, F#, Perl6, Arc, newLISP, Scala, Groovy, Lua, Q, Qz, Mercury, Scratch, Flash, Processing, … (See: Proliferation of Programing Languages), helped by the abundance of tools, libraries, parsers, existence of infrastructures) New langs, will either have most advantages of lisps, and or with modern libraries and idioms that better fits today's need. I see that, perhaps in the next decade, as communication technologies further hurl us forward, the proliferation of langs might reduce to a trend of consolidation (For example, fueled by virtual machines such as Microsoft's “.NET”, and the fertile communication making people see the pain and redundancy of language variations (and, thanks to Xah for the breaking of programer's social taboo of cross communication of computing languages. (See: Cross-posting and Language Factions) )).

There is one slight hope for Lisp the lang as we understood it, and that is Emacs Lisp. Due to, it being deeply rooted in the industry as a powerful text editor, and the embedded lisp has major practical impact in getting people to know lisp and also actually use it for practical need. The installed base of emacs lisp system is perhaps 100 or 1000 times more than the number of all Common Lisp and Scheme Lisp's installed base. (this satisfying prospect is however mar'd by the tech geekers. For example, the Common Lispers, and Scheme Lispers, perennially inject snide and sneer at emacs lisp that harms its progress, while the faaking emacs priests, want to coffin emacs in its 1980s UI and terminologies. (See: Modernization of EmacsText Editors Popularity and Market Research.))

This essay is originally a post to newsgroup “comp.lang.lisp”.

A new lisp language Clojure is getting quite popular today.