[Haskell-cafe] Re: A rant against the blurb on the Haskell front page

wren ng thornton wren at freegeek.org
Sat Oct 16 19:51:26 EDT 2010

On 10/16/10 10:48 AM, Ben Franksen wrote:
> Don Stewart wrote:
>> It is open source, and was born open source. It is the product of
>> research.
> How can a language be open source, or rather, how can it *not* be open
> source? The point of a (programming) language is that it has a published
> ('open') definition. Nothing prevents anyone from creating a proprietary
> compiler or interpreter for Haskell, AFAIK.

Miranda[TM] is/was a proprietary language, quite definitively so. If 
nothing else, this should be apparent by the fact that every reference 
to it in research papers of the era (a) included the TM sigil, and (b) 
had footnotes indicating who the IP holders are. That was before my 
time, but I was under the impression that Haskell was open from the 
beginning ---by express intention--- in order to enable work on lazy 
functional languages without being encumbered by Miranda[TM]'s closed 

For that matter, until rather recently Java was very much a closed 
language defined by the runtime system provided by Sun Microsystems and 
not defined by the sequence of characters accepted by that system, nor 
by the behavior of the system when it accepts them. Sun even went 
through some trouble to try to shut out competitive development of 
runtime systems such as SoyLatte, IcedTea, and the like.

Even the venerable C language has a long history of companies making 
proprietary extensions to the language in order to require you to buy 
their compiler, and they would most certainly pursue legal action if 
someone else copied the features. This is why GCC is as big a coup for 
the free/open-source movement as Linux is--- long before GCC changed its 
name and focus to being a compiler collection.

The languages which are open-source are in close correspondence with the 
languages which have a free/open-source implementation. There are a lot 
of them, including the vast majority of recent languages. But don't be 
seduced into thinking that a language is a predicate on acceptable 
strings, a transducer from those strings into computer behaviors, or 
that such predicates and transducers are public domain.

Live well,

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