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Sun's 'Coyote' Project Is No Lone Wolf

Sun Microsystems is famous for saying Java is everywhere, but the company is now admitting that Java may not be for everything.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company said dynamic languages like Python , Perl , and Parrot are quickly growing in mindshare, popularity and respectability because they can often do the same amount of work in fewer lines of code than Java can alone.

So instead of fighting the trend, Sun is opening up its services to launch a new development project called Coyote under its Sun Public License (SPL). The goal is to create modules that help developers write code in dynamic languages using the NetBeans Integrated Development Environment .

"Java is not a particularly good scripting language. Dynamic languages are better at handling control flow in applications where you don't need a more broad brush stroke," Tim Bray, Sun technology director and XML co-creator, told internetnews.com. "At the end of the day when you want to sketch in a bit of code, you want to write to whatever language you are comfortable with. For us, it doesn't matter if it is in Java or another dynamic language. We are looking for perfectly equal citizens."

Sun could use the help promoting its NetBeans platform. The IDE competes heavily with the Eclipse Project, which is backed by Sun rivals IBM and BEA .

Initially, Sun is working with the Groovy and Jython languages, but Bray is optimistic that the project will expand to a common framework allowing support for more languages.

"We're expecting to build a nice community around this, but we're not pushing it," Bray told internetnews.com. "We are more inclined to let the market to decide and let them work it out."

In principle, Java has always been able to support other languages. Currently, there are more than 200 Java Virtual Machine (JVM)-based languages at various stages of development. But Bray said he and fellow Sun technology evangelist Simon Phipps identified a need to make the distinction between the two camps less edgy.

"When I came onboard last year, I said, 'Let's do a better job of talking to the dynamic language people,'" Bray recounted. "Simon originally had the idea of a dynamic-language module, then he and I pestered people all over Sun and now here we are."

The project name Coyote is no mistake, said Bray. "Because most of these dynamic languages live a lean, mean life on the fringes without much in the way of financial support or organizational infrastructure."

"If we at Sun wanted to get behind one and, you know, actually pay developers, just like we pay the lead Roller developer, we could really give it some momentum and a chance of becoming dominant on the JVM," Bray said.

So far, Coyote has a laundry list of things that need to be done including move development to NetBeans 4.1 codeline, which is currently in beta. The project is also looking for help in areas like syntax coloring of the source code; an indentation engine to help format the scripts files; a syntax error highlighting in the editor without compile; and debugging.

"I certainly plan to do some fiddling with Coyote," Bray said. "I want to be able to work on both Zeppelin and my Jython Servlets without switching back and forth between NetBeans and Emacs all the time."