Programming Language Scalability (blog) (
from to on 13 Apr 2024 04:53

Key quote IMO:

As organizations grow, one cannot depend on everyone being good at their job, or even average, if statistics are to be believed. With this I would like to talk about the scalability of a programming language, which I will define it as:

A programming language is more scalable if an engineer unfamiliar with a code base written in it produces correct code more quickly.

Scalability is often at odds with peak effectiveness, the maximum effectiveness of an engineer who is intimately familiar with the codebase, because the features driving peak effectiveness are often enabling abstractions tailored towards the specific use case at hand, like macros and support for domain-specific languages. These abstractions can make domain experts more effective, but present an additional barrier to entry to everyone else. At the extreme end of this spectrum sit code golf languages.


threaded - newest on 13 Apr 2024 04:57 collapse

My general take:

A codebase with scalable architecture is one that stays malleable even when it grows large and the people working on it change. At least relative to a codebase without scalable architecture, which devolves into “spaghetti code”, where nobody knows what the code does or where the behaviors are implemented, and small changes break seemingly-unrelated things.

Programming language isn’t the sole determinant of a codebase’s scalability, especially if the language has all the general-purpose features one would expect nowadays (e.g. Java, C++, Haskell, Rust, TypeScript). But it’s a major contributor. A “non-scalable” language makes spaghetti design decisions too easy and scalable design decisions overly convoluted and verbose. A scalable language does the opposite, nudging developers towards building scalable software automatically, at least relative to a “non-scalable” language and when the software already has a scalable foundation.