The previous article which asked "Is ColdFusion still relevant" generated some interesting replies and emails, including a thoughtful and well-reasoned comment by Adrock from Adobe's ColdFusion team regarding its future.
One part stands out, in which he says, "Personally, I'm seeing new ColdFusion developers/customers coming from two new places. Companies moving towards Flex/Apollo choose ColdFusion as the logical middle-ware and enterprise Java shops who are just now coming to terms that enterprise Java development isn't the best fit for departmental smaller applications."
This, to me, says that ColdFusion growth is being driven in more of a "top-down" fashion, dictated by management's decisions and choices, as opposed to the "bottom-up" grass-roots popularity more commonly associated with the open-source movement.
Yesterday I said that younger developers tend to lean towards free/open-source software (F/OSS) for several reasons, including:
1) Its philosophical underpinnings are more in line with their own.
2) Because it's cool.
3) Because they, or the companies they work for, are cheapskates.
Let's touch on the first point today.
In terms of philosophy, F/OSS hits a lot of buttons among the young, from the utopian "information wants to be free" mantra to the concept that using F/OSS means "sticking it to the establishment" (e.g. Microsoft). Perhaps more core, however, is the idea that in open-source, "anyone can make a difference".
The later is not to be ignored, as it's a powerful force, especially among those who've yet to lose their idealism and who still dream of changing the world. Spend any time around a geek hangout like Slashdot, and you quickly pickup the dogma:
In open source, anyone can add features or functionality to a project.
In open source, if there's a critical bug you can always download the source and fix it yourself.
In open source, if your or others don't like the way a project is going, you can "fork" the project and take it in the direction you think it should be going.
Contrast that with ColdFusion (and to be fair, .NET and other "closed" proprietary systems).
In ColdFusion, the development team adds the features they think are wanted, or adds those dictated by management. (Anyone think that the strong Flash/Flex/PDF support is unrelated to the fact that they're also core products owned by the same company?) You can propose a feature (though how I'm not sure), and it will be tallied and debated, and either scheduled for the next release (often years away), or ignored.
Even the frameworks and orm's surrounding CF are coalescing in the same fashion: Fusebox, Model-Glue, Mach-II; Reactor, Transfer. One developer I know asked for a change to Reactor to support multiple DSNs. He was told, rather bluntly, "It doesn't work that way."
In ColdFusion, the development team fixes the bugs they think need fixing, and on their schedule. How long has the cfapplication cookie bug been around? The cfmail spooler hangup? How long has OS X support for the new Intel platform been stalled?
And in ColdFusion, if you don't like the way it's going you can... do what? Complain and hope someone is listening? Spend significant amounts of time and money switching platforms? I, for one, don't really like the direction Scorpio is going in terms of Flash/Flex support, and wish instead that they'd fix many of the issues involved with, say, client/server forms processing and validation error handling. If I had access to the source, I might do it myself. But I don't.
Now obviously, the situation is quite not so black and white as I've made it out to be, and the perception is not reality. Or is it?
Open-source can suffer from the exact same problems: Strong-willed development teams who think it's their way or the highway; projects that are understaffed or undersupported, and don't respond timely to bugs reports; and forks that hit dead ends and die from indifference.
But be that as it may, to the young the seductive siren call of open source still remains: You can make a difference, and, in doing so, change the world.
Look at their faces. You can see them listening...