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

Tony Morris tonymorris at gmail.com
Sat Oct 16 22:22:26 EDT 2010

On 17/10/10 12:03, Ben Franksen wrote:
> wren ng thornton wrote:
>> 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
>> nature.
>> 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.
> Sigh. Yes, you are right, of course. All this is true, sadly. There are
> stupid people who think that they can own a programming language. I hope
> they will go the way all the other mis-adapted creatures have gone and just
> die out.
> Still, "Haskell is an open source product" doesn't sound right to me.
> Even "Haskell is open source" (without the "product") has a bad ring
> because "source" is short for "source code" and source code is not
> something a programming language has.
> I agree that "non-proprietary" is a valid and important characterization of
> the language. This should be mentioned where we speak about libraries and
> community, since the active and friendly community is the motor behind the
> growing set of libraries, and you get this sort of participation only with
> a free/non-proprietary language. This applies not only to individuals but
> to companies as well, maybe even more.
> I anticipate the objection that potential commercial users might be scared
> off by the terms "non-proprietary" or "free", whereas the term "open
> source" has been coined to (and probably actually does) sound more commerce
> friendly. To countermand such an effect, we can point out that most
> libraries have non-copyleft licenses and that there are a number of
> companies who have done and still do a lot to support and advance Haskell.
> Cheers
> Ben
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I am somewhat sympathetic to your argument, but I care far less overall.

Nevertheless, perhaps this would appease:

"Haskell is an open standard with a robust open source implementation."

Tony Morris

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