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How Companies and Services Like Facebook Are Shaped by the Programming Languages They Use



Much as startups “mature” by finally figuring out where their revenue will come from, they can cleverly use the power of programming languages to manipulate their organizational psychology. Programming–language designer Guido van Rossum, who spent seven years at Google and now works at Dropbox, says that once a software company gets to be a certain size, the only way to stave off chaos is to use a language that requires more from the programmer up front. “It feels like it’s slowing you down, because you have to say everything three times,” van Rossum says. That is why many startups wait as long as they can before making the switch. You lose some of the swaggering hackers who got you started, and the possibility that small teams can rush out new features. But a more exacting language helps people across the company understand one another’s code and gives your product the stability needed to be part of the furniture of daily life.

That software startups can perform such maneuvers might even help explain why they can be so powerful. The expanding reach of computers is part of it. But these companies also have a unique ability to remake themselves. As they change and grow, they can do more than just redraw the org chart. Because they are built in code, they can do something far more drastic. They can rewire themselves, their culture, the very way they think.

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That's an awesome thought, that a software company can rewire itself. 

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