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Long term viability of GCC (was Re: gcc : c++11 : full support : eta?)


[ We have drifted way off the original subject. ]


On Wed, Jan 23, 2013 at 2:16 PM, Uday Khedker <uday@cse.iitb.ac.in> wrote:

> Yes, absolutely. And GCC community should consider it important to bring in
> newcomers particularly young students and experimenters from the academia.
>
> Why is it that most student projects these days are on LLVM and not on GCC?
> Had these students been doing projects on GCC, some of them may turn
> contributors in future.

Yes.  This is an issue for the long term viability of GCC as a
project.  In fact, I sometimes think that we may be past the tipping
point.

Note that the very set of developers that can fix these problems are,
traditionally, the least likely to do much about it.  These developers
are already comfortable with the codebase, they know how to do the
things they are hired to do and employers are largely on the same
boat.  Additionally, established developers will generally resist
change, because these changes lead to short-term instability and bugs
(the releng/maintainer mindset).

Evolving this codebase is largely a thankless and difficult job.  It's
technically interesting to me, but I know I can only do so much.  We
have other demands on our time and often this conflicts with the
nature of these changes.  Some developers have done some work here and
there to improve the codebase, but GCC's accumulated technical debt is
large.

If this trend continues, the pool of experienced GCC developers will
eventually start to dwindle.  Without developer renewal, GCC will
naturally die out.  This cycle has happened many times before and it
will continue to happen.  Yet, it would be interesting to have two or
more strong competing open source compilers.  The cross-pollination
that open source competition encourages is beneficial to all (users
and developers).


Diego.


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