Brief Tcl Corporate History

"... (1) He Who Shall Not Be Named didn't like Tcl because it wasn't a full Lisp - Greenspun's Tenth Rule [1 ] and all that.

(2) He Who Shall Not Be Named was profoundly disturbed by Sun's hiring of JKO and announcement of TclPro.

He Who Shall Not Be Named thought of TclPro as being a closed-source fork, where in fact it was a suite of closed-source tools to facilitate Tcl development.

... and he saw Sun's adoption of Tcl as 'taking it proprietary.'

... including calling JKO a "parasite" to his face in public at one of the O'Reilly workshops (see also Why you should not use Tcl).

He Who Shall Not Be Named's concern regarding closed-source fork was at least sane.

That it didn't happen that way is down to Sun's ... good graces, I guess. He Who Shall Not Be Named then mounted a lot of technical criticisms about the language, most of which were more or less well founded. The Tcl community took those in its usual spirit - as a challenge - and fixed virtually all of them in the branch that became 8.0. I say 'the community' rather than 'John's team at Sun' because much of the work came from outside; Karl Lehenbauer, Mark Diekhans, George Howlett, Henry Spencer and Don Libes all come immediately to mind as significant contributors. and in fact, the 8.0 and 8.1 releases showed pretty emphatically that Sun and Scriptics were not "taking it closed-source". one account of the incident is at http://www.oreilly.com/openbook/freedom/ch11.html

He Who Shall Not Be Named's concern was valid insofar as the license didn't prevent its being closed. However, it ignores something else operating to prevent the enclosure. For example, had Sun decided tcl would be its Java, things may have gone as He Who Shall Not Be Named feared, one can't rule it out, but He Who Shall Not Be Named thought a license could. The interesting thing was that the trigger for the outburst was John's statement that businesses need well-packaged, supported, documented distributions that (in his opinion at the time) only a proprietary model could achieve. http://www.techweb.com/wire/story/TWB19980824S0012

There's no question that Sun's investment improved tcl. Sun had already cast its lot with Java by that point. Sun was more positioning Tcl to be its counterpart to VisualBasic, just as Java was its conterpart to VC++. However, I think it's probably arguable that enclosing a language is self-defeating. Eventually, Sun fell victim to its own hype and decided to push Java in both tiers.

Sun decided that Tcl was diluting its Java message and allowed JKO to found Scriptics.

About half of John's team came with him; the other half found other positions at Sun and elsewhere.

Scriptics renamed itself to Ajuba Solutions.

Ajuba found itself the target of a takeover by Interwoven, which (I speculate) bought it in an effort to kill Tcl - because of the fact that its largest competitor, Vignette, was heavily invested in Tcl. Certainly Ajuba didn't remain as a singificant presence after the buyout.

Of course, Ajuba had significantly diluted its position by that point by trying to present itself as a vendor of B2B middleware; John once described Tcl as the 'secret sauce' in Ajuba's B2B offerings.

In the course of the wreck of Ajuba, John found himself reasonably wealthy, and was semi-retired for a little while at least before deciding to found Electric Cloud, Inc..

And since Interwoven had no interest in supporting Scriptics's TclPro customers, John quietly released TclPro to the open source.

Under the Tcl license.

ActiveState saw a business opportinity there, and began building TDK at least partly from a closed-source fork of TclPro.

Reading the O'Reilly rendering of events ... it seems that He Who Shall Not Be Named, having suffered a series of setbacks, needed for psychological reasons to strike someone.

Becoming strident, because he feared becoming irrelevant.

That's certainly Sam Williams's view of the matter. He Who Shall Not Be Named is a complex and often puzzling figure - explanations like that are far too simplistic to explain him.

... story, alas, is something that I couldn't really put in print, for lack of evidence; I reconstruct it from whisperings in hotel hallways and drunken ravings of the tangentially involved."


LV Like all things on the internet, I would hope that people would recognize the above writing as containing a mixture of facts and opinions ... at least when discussion motivations and the opinions of others.


A detailed and amusing account from a Sun insider of how Tcl lost out to Java: [2 ]