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Often, many decent languages just won't get popular because of the chicken-and-egg problem where a language lacks resources (books, tutorials... other than for some basic language documentation), tools (IDE support, debuggers), libraries (other than for some kind of small standard library) and very few people have adopted it. The language might not have been standardized either.

Such languages do still get used occasionally, as otherwise, we wouldn't have any popular languages today. Some got popular because they were created for a specific major product and used for that (e.g. C for UNIX), but some languages weren't, but still got quite popular (e.g. Java and Python).

What would such a poorly supported language need to offer in order for you to adopt it for a software project you are going to create? Surely, there would have to be something quite revolutionizing or unique about the language.

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Luck probably! The world just isn't fair and the best language doesn't win. This a similar to the problem with Sony Betamax and Philips Video 2000 being vastly superior to the VHS system, but arriving just slightly too late to hit the market window when people decided what to buy. –  Bo Persson May 1 '11 at 18:16
    
    
Java pretty much had an extensive library from the start, Plus, it was one of the first machine independent languages. Not to mention it was backed by Sun. –  Pemdas May 2 '11 at 1:38

2 Answers 2

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  1. Money. I've taken jobs in the past where it was a language I'd never heard of and they were recruiting "anyone willing to learn X", and paying accordingly. Excellent job security too, once you're on board. I have one friend who spent 20 years at a huge daily rate because she was one of the few people available who knew some obscure language.

  2. Abilities. If I'm doing a project and there's a domain-specific language or a language that offers huge advantages that outweight the limited support, I'll happily use it. For example, using Jade bask in the 1990s for a high-availability system because it allowed the running code to be updated without stopping the system.

  3. Bandwagon. It really doesn't matter how new, untried, unknown the language is, if it's offered by a major vendor it's probably going to become big. Being in the pool early has career advantages if the language succeeds (think Microsoft's plethora of research-level language offerings).

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My Boss

Seriously, surely if the language is around there must be some reason for its being around right. It must solve some problem nicely, every language has some cool features. If those are the ones that make my life easier in the current project I am working on, sure why not use it?

The reason could be that some vendor I need to work with in my project provides solution in a specific language and to integrate it with my project I would need to do some glue code in the custom language.

The last reason is more interesting: if you work in a company like janestreet which champions the use of functional programming in OCaml then you would end up learning the language and contributing back to the community even if the language is not mainstream. Read more here: http://janestreet.com/technology/ocaml.php

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