End of Comma IDE development
The Comma IDE for the Raku Programming Language was announced by Edument in 2018, and the first release shipped later that year. An IDE provides a curated and integrated development experience for a language, and we wished to bring that experience to Raku language users.
Going beyond basic editor functionality such as syntax highlighting, code navigation, and code formatting, Comma offers a wide range of code analyses and refactors, an integrated test runner, test coverage analysis, debugging, profiling, and more.
Commercially, Edument had three goals with Comma. The first was to establish a product whose income would sustain its development over the long haul. The second was to advertise our knowledge in development tooling, and particularly IntelliJ platform development. The third was to help drive overall Raku adoption via providing something it was missing, which could also drive consulting business for us.
Initial interest in Comma subscriptions was fairly encouraging. Unfortunately, that first year also set the record for most subscriptions sold. The initial releases were billed as early adopters / supporters releases and only available at cost. However, we had also promised to release a free edition later. It’s hard to know how many of those initial subscribers would have stayed away if we’d not promised a future cost-free Comma release. What is clear is that Comma Community - despite lacking many valuable features - was still deemed “good enough” by a significant majority of the user base. Subscription numbers stagnated, and today stand at a tenth of what would be needed to keep going in mostly maintenance mode with the occasional new feature.
There was a bit more luck with regards to promoting Edument’s capabilities in IntelliJ platform plugin development, and some projects were won and delivered in this area. Certainly they helped us to keep going with Comma development, hoping that growth in the overall Raku user base would mean the proportion willing to pay for an IDE would grow sufficiently to sustain it. However, there’s been a significant slow-down in plugin development projects too. Generally, potential customers are themselves in the developer tooling sector and mostly want to do the work in-house.
Comma development does not come cheaply. Mac support has been especially costly, with evolving notarization requirements and a change of CPU architecture to be faced (Apple Silicon as well as Intel), which also implied the purchase of new hardware for testing and release. Keeping up with the base IntelliJ platform that Comma builds on has also been costly. With Comma coming to have a broad range of functionality, we touched a significant volume of the API (and so had plenty of deprecations to keep on top of), and likely used some things that were not officially APIs. And, while the evolution of the IDE platform’s build system is almost certainly an improvement, it’s also required repeated adaptation and testing. The cost to “stand still”, without having much exciting new functionality to announce, is non-trivial.
With the discrepancy between revenue and development cost to continue being so large, and the prevailing economic environment forcing us to focus on business activities that at least pay for themselves, we’ve made the sad decision to discontinue development of the Comma IDE. As a result:
- Sales of new Comma subscriptions are no longer available. (Done)
- We will be contacting all those with an active subscription and offering a refund. (Subscribers contacted; refunds to be issued to those requesting them.)
- Once this process has been completed, all user data still held in our databases in conjunction with Comma subscriptions will be removed.
- We have internally cleared publishing the Comma IDE code under an open source license, in the event that members of the Raku community wish to carry the project forward in some form. The Raku Steering Council have agreed to be the party that repositories will be transferred to. We encourage any community members interested in maintaining or developing the code base into the future to contact the Raku Steering Council. We note that developing and maintaining the project on a plugin-only basis, rather than a standalone IDE, is likely to be far more viable, since the build process is far simpler and avoids such issues as notarization for Mac. We can provide some guidance to anybody wishing to attempt this.
- Given building Comma releases is not entirely trivial, we will make the latest Comma Complete release, with all features, available for download publicly. (Done)
At Edument, we know that many Raku users have appreciated Comma, and we’re sorry to not be able to continue its development. We would like to thank all those who supported Comma over the years, and to wish the best of luck to any community members who wish to carry the work forward in some form.