Someone asked on Reddit: Why Clojure is not widely adopted like mainstream languages?

Here's my answer:

You probably should have flipped the question, because the vast majority of programming languages are not mainstream.

The more insightful question is: "Why and how did a language X become mainstream?"

From the answers to this flipped question, we may induce some patterns that other languages could try to imitate.

Let's give it a try, by looking at the most popular languages as of today:

  1. Python: Some big corporations adopted it early on, e.g. Google; some well-connected people started to prompt it as the first language, then schools started following the suggestion; now it enjoys dominance in machine learning - the most hyped field.
  2. C: A readable assembly, so almost all operating systems are written in it; you must use it if you want to interface with hardware; all students in the last generation learnt it in school.
  3. Java: Heavily prompted by its corporate creator that enjoyed a high status among developers; billed as something solving most problems at that time; consequently widely adopted by other big corporations as well; so it was taught in schools everywhere.
  4. C++: billed as the next step of C, due to the wise choice of its name; heavily prompted by tooling companies such as Microsoft, for it was so complex, their tooling were required; all the "serious" computer science students are then proud of their skills in C++, because only they can master it, non-CS students would not be able to.
  5. C#: Microsoft's answer to Java. Microsoft betted the company on it.
  6. Visual Basic: non-programmer's only option for a very long time.
  7. Javascript: the Web's only frontend option for a very long time.

So the tricks to popularity seems to be, in order of importance:

  1. Big company backing
  2. Niche dominance
  3. School adoption

Clojure's only hope is 2. Maybe 1, if one of the companies using Clojure becomes wildly successful. Then 3 will follow.

What do you think?


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