Status update on GHC maintenance

Sunday, 04 August 2013, by Duncan Coutts.
Filed under ghc, community, well-typed.

As many in the community are aware, our long-time colleague and co-founder Ian Lynagh is leaving for new challenges. We are of course sad to see him go and wish him all the best with his new endeavours. Since he and I founded the company together five years ago he has worked tirelessly to make it a success. It has been a privilege to work with him. It has also been great fun.

Ian has of course played an important role in the Haskell community as one of the pillars of GHC development. It is understandable that people in the community have concerns about what his departure means, so I want to give everyone an update on our plans which I hope will allay concerns.

As a company, Well-Typed is fully committed to GHC and helping Simon PJ with its development and maintenance. We are currently in the process of recruiting. In addition, our colleague Edsko has already started working on GHC and he will continue during the transition period and perhaps also in the longer term.

Our plan is actually to have two people work on GHC, each about half-time. This is partly because GHC work requires a wide range of specialised skills and partly to provide a bit of variety for the people working on GHC. Ian worked primarily on GHC for seven years, but he is a bit superhuman in that respect.

Once we have determined who will be working on GHC we will make further announcements. There will inevitably be a lull in activity as Edsko gets up to speed and the new people come on board, but I am reasonably confident that this will not be too significant.

The first big challenge will be to manage the process of the GHC 7.8 release. The target is to have a release candidate available shortly before ICFP in late September, and then a final release a month or two later.

I also want to reiterate what Simon has been saying recently, that we have to see GHC as being owned by the community and that community involvement in GHC development and maintenance is vital. Well-Typed's roll in GHC maintenance is not to do it on behalf of the community. It is better to think of our role as like that of a full-time maintainer. A maintainer can help volunteers get their patches reviewed and merged. They provide continuity, knowledge of the codebase, can help make decisions, and can organise volunteer efforts and processes like releases.

Ian has of course shaped and defined the role, but it is not fixed in stone. Our new people working on GHC maintenance will have some scope to define the role, in consultation with Simon and the community.

I should also say that the number of volunteers working on GHC has increased noticeably since Simon PJ called on the community to get more involved following Simon Marlow's departure. This is a very promising sign and we will play our part to assist those volunteers and to encourage more people.

So all in all, we agree with Simon that the future of the Glorious Haskell Compiler is indeed glorious!