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The title pretty much gives you the gist of the question, but allow me elaborate a bit nevertheless. Apart from Google's involvement on Python, and Activestate's on Perl development (Strawberry AFAIK doesn't make any money on its own product) I'm interested in what are the major sources of funding of such.

Are there any texts that cover this? I tried searching, but found nothing apart from the "history of" and "it's opensource, everyone gives in" ...

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I would imagine this would be different for every programming language, and that several languages don't get much (or any) funding and are maintained as hobbies (i.e. brainfuck), or sometimes not hobbies (C, C++). Who said a language needed money to be maintained? –  Billy ONeal Oct 24 '10 at 23:47
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@Billy ONeal - Of course it is different for every language. But with compiled languages the story is somewhat simpler, since the majority of them is commercial. Every language needs money to be developed/maintained/anything. If nothing else, money = food = feeding humans for a amount of time = lang. dev/maintance (to put it in a very naive way). –  Rook Oct 24 '10 at 23:54
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I also cannot see what in this question would bother anyone enough to downvote it, so please, do leave a comment on that. –  Rook Oct 25 '10 at 0:14
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How is having dogs in private hoeseholds funded? I mean, they eat a lot, and do nothing useful most of the time. Yet people have dogs. –  Ingo Dec 1 '11 at 17:14
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closed as not constructive by ChrisF Dec 24 '11 at 14:35

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3 Answers

"It's opensource, everyone gives in" pretty much is the state of the funding for these languages. (Aside from Google, of course.) Your question seems to be based on the unspoken assumption that in order to develop the language, it has to be funded by someone with deep pockets, and this simply isn't true.

Development (of anything) doesn't require money, it requires time, effort and raw materials. We've got an economy where money is commonly used to buy raw materials and motivate people to put time and effort into something, and the concept is so prevalent that so we tend to equate them, but they're separate and separable concepts.

People who contribute to an open-source programming language already have the raw materials (a computer, an Internet connection and basic development tools,) and usually have a different motivation for putting time and effort into it: They don't do it for money, they do it because they're using the language and they want to help shape it into a better tool for whatever it is they're using it for.

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No, I made no assumptions while posting the question. But I am wondering, since some of the more influential individuals who participate in development need to live off something, and their time involved is not negligeable, quite the opposite, ... does that mean that the future of one language (so to say, athough it doesn't quite transfer the meaning) does not depend on direct funding, but purely on it's popularity amongst its devleoping community, so to say? –  Rook Oct 25 '10 at 0:03
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In open source, it is very common for a person to give their time and effort for free, for the greater good plus to earn reputation, while they earn their living doing something else. It's not much different than the motivation for answering questions on StackExchange. –  Emilio M Bumachar Dec 1 '11 at 18:05
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@Emilio - except that the main programmers on major OSS projects (linux/apache/python/etc) are working full time on it and are normally employed either by a company that is a big user of the technology or by a foundation that is funded by those companies. Although the rest of us submit patches for free as you said –  Martin Beckett Dec 1 '11 at 18:47
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Assuming that by "languages like" you mean open-source languages, the answer in general is that they are funded by the people that contribute their own time to it, and by the organisations that contribute their members' time to it.

Using Python as an example, Google uses Python extensively, and regularly contributes back to the project (not just Guido's work, but many other employees as well). I believe they're also happy for employees to spend some time contributing in non-coding ways (e.g. taking part in python-dev discussion). There are many other companies for which this is also true, to a greater or lesser extent.

Python also has the Python Software Foundation (PSF), which is funded for the most part by sponsors (typically large companies like ActiveState, Google and O'Reilly - the web page has a current list). Although the PSF isn't responsible for the day-to-day work on Python, it does advance the language in various ways, particularly related to funding - for example funding conferences (where often a lot of development is done), occasionally funding work on a specific project, working with "Summer of Code" students, and so forth.

Throughout much of the life of Python, one or more core developers have been employed to specifically work on development of Python itself (either part time or full). For example, Guido developed Python while at CWI, CNRI, BeOpen.com, and most recently at Google.

Other implementations of Python (work on which feeds back into the core Python and CPython) are funded in similar ways. For example, until very recently Microsoft funded (completely) the development of IronPython, and the European Union funded (partially but significantly) the development of PyPy.

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Language don't need funding, but they get a lot more love and attention if someone pays developers to work on them. What happens is that companies that rely on the languages hire developers who work on the languages to work on them either full or part time.

Guido works for Google -- I would not be surprised to find out that they pay him a salary to be the Python BDFL. Larry worked for O'Reily for a while officially working on writing Perl books, but large parts of that was making sure there was a Perl to write books about.

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