I debated posting this entry. On the one hand the story in ComputerWorld today demands a response, and on the other hand as the story is an attempt to draw traffic and readers, I’m helping by responding. But, so many of you have asked me to respond that I feel I have no choice but to do so. So …
ComputerWorld used to be a major force in IT journalism, so you can’t really blame them for having to resort to sensationalism so as to try to attract traffic to their site. But, Mary Brandel’s pathetic piece entitled “The top 10 dead (or dying) computer skills” sinks to new lows.
But before I go any further, who is Mary Brandel, and what background makes her the authority on the subject of technology trends? A quick search through ComputerWorld archives shows such hard-hitting technically in-depth stories as “How To Survive A Bad Boss”, “Budgetary Black Holes”, “Five Ways To Defeat blog trolls and cyberstalkers”, “Seven Essential Ingredients for Leadership”, as well as stories on outsourcing, CIO profiles, and management advice. In other words, nothing overly technical at all. In fact, despite multiple searches in all the obvious locations, I could find no evidence that Mary actually has real technology experience, other than talking about it of course. So, as you read her story, keep that context in mind, a story is only as legitimate as the person writing it.
Now on to her pearls of wisdom. Mary lists ten technologies that she considers dead or dying. Among them she includes Cobol, Non-relational DBMS, cc:Mail, CNEs, OS/2, and … ColdFusion. Yep, she actually ranked ColdFusion right there with OS/2 and PowerBuilder and non IP networks. It makes you wonder what science and research drove this list. Comparing products and technologies that have not been updated in over a decade to one being updated as we speak?
Although, and this should be telling to you, she probably does not know that ColdFusion 8 is due out this year. Why? Because we are conducting press briefings now, and are talking to all sorts of publications and media. ComputerWorld, however, has refused our invitations! It seems that they’d rather spew sensationalism then actually invest time into researching stories.
But, for a real laugh, look at her reasoning: “[ColdFusion] has since been superseded by other development platforms, including Microsoft Corp.’s Active Server Pages and .Net, as well as Java, Ruby on Rails, Python, PHP and other open-source languages”.
Specific languages aside, did she not do any homework at all? Does she actually know what these technologies are and are not? Java? Is she even aware of the ColdFusion Java relationship?
And as for her comments about ColdFusion developers not being paid as much, and implying they are a dying breed and not in demand, has she even bothered to talk to any? Or to drop by events like MAX and CFUnited and cf:Objective? Judging by the reaction from the ColdFusion community, many are insulted by her insinuation, ramblings not based on fact and reason, and they have every right to be so.
Mary, considering your lack of experience and inability to conduct research, I’ll forgive you this demonstration of irresponsible journalism. But only on condition that you take the time to learn a bit more about the product and technology you so easily dismiss. The invitation to brief (or educate) you on ColdFusion and the upcoming ColdFusion 8 still stands. Which means you have to decide what’s more important to you, journalistic integrity, or doing whatever it takes to be read. The ball is in your court.

64 thoughts

  1. I dont think it could of been said better Ben. 🙂
    Thanks for taking the time to respond. Now we just need to get Adobe to publicaly respond 🙂

  2. I just ignore idiotic articles such as this.
    I like CF and I have a good paying job in CF. If my company were to change to .NET, I wouldn’t quit my job just because I wasn’t fond of the technology. I would change as well and keep getting paid.
    However, I don’t see my company changing anytime soon because they like CF and have been happy with it, as have I. I’m not in this job because of how popular CF is, I am in this job because I like CF and that is what my company uses.
    Many of the complaints about CF center on the cost. The way I see it, you can invest in CF and get quality apps quickly or you can go with a cheaper language such as .NET and spend your money on longer development time…and explaining to your customer why your projects are always late!

  3. I know I posted some of this on Ray’s blog but here goes:
    1.) the point on COBOL is pretty ineffective. When y2k hit most of those companies affected had a chance to switch and most chose maintenance. If you notice theres no hard facts in this piece at all, and any supposed facts are suspect. If you were to count the number of financial institutions alone that still employ COBOL to run critical business systems, it would be a staggering count.
    2.) The fact that the CF part and many others comes with footnotes about Foote LLC providing the information it is hilarious that the same LLC provided Cold Fusion (notice the spacing) as one of the hot technology position for fourth quarter 2006….
    3.) As I’ve said list CF on your monster.com resume and be inundated with 5-10 calls DAILY from agencies and companies for CF position.
    It really speaks for itself. The first Adobe release is turning out to be spectacular and hopefully begins to shed some of the ignorant light people like Mary Brandel has. I bet she advocates the use of SharePoint as well and the only thing she knows about it is to rattle off the buzz words ‘real-time collaboration!’ ‘versioning with real-time collaboration!’

  4. When I read the article and saw Coldfusion as #5, I just shook my head. I’ve used PHP, ASP.NET, JSP, and several other languages and frankly, the thing I love about CF is that you can get your work done with minimal effort. With Adobe taking over and the upcoming version of Coldfusion 8, I don’t see it dying soon. We recommend it to all of our customers where I work and I’ve been extremely happy with it.
    The article doesn’t have much to back it up and the editor’s references seem to be weak. I might be wrong, but it seems that the editor based the Coldfusion’s "demise" on financial data from an analyst. (note that it’s from ONE source and not from multiple sources, which shows some weakness in the article)
    I guess I can take the argument around and say Linux is dead because of other competing Operating Systems, but I know it’s very much alive.
    – Craig

  5. Hi Ben, your instincts are naturally right in trying to resist responding. I highly doubt this Mary is officially a member of the journalistic community, but rather a freelance commentator at best.
    BUT… proof is in the pudding. And all I have to say is I WISH CF developer salaries were going down. 🙂 We’re trying to hire, and finding someone who’ll work within our budget has been challenging.

  6. Hi Ben,
    What bothers me most about this article, is the fact that it is negatively written. When I was at Boardwatch Magazine, we would never have run such a story. There are so many good stories to run we didn’t have the space to waste (even if it were factual) on an article such as this. ComputerWorld just hasn’t been the same since Bob Metcalf left. That article is just bad journalism and it servers no useful purpose other than to show off the authors ignorance. I miss the good ole days. Long live the BBS.

  7. Oh, this is too funny. Look at this ComputerWorld article from just a few months ago: http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=266156
    The article entitled "Cobol Not Dead Yet" (Mary?) lists the languages most used by companies surveyed, COBOL is used by 62% in that survey, C (which Mary also pronounced dead) by 26%, and ColdFusion at 15% is listed higher than some of the languages she suggests as replacing it.
    Not that that article holds any more credibility than does Mary’s drivel, but come one, at least try for consistency.
    Time for a movie entitled "There’s Nothing About Mary"?
    — Ben

  8. CF is nowhere near dead. (Even the Amiga isn’t dead yet!) It is also to be noted that the following comments are not endorsed by Adobe, Ben Forta or any sub-organization related. 🙂
    With that said, Adobe still needs to pick up the speed on more than language features. They have started promoting it more agressive and that is good. Yet Adobe’s ColdFusion reminds me of the rich young ruller who asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him one thing he lacked. (You can read the rest of that story somewhere else.)
    Now Adobe has asked the developers about what they need (not to reivie, because CF is alive and about to get livelier with CF8 for sure)… but the one they they lack to give them "more abundant life" is a GOOD IDE!!!
    (And lately I am not the only beating on that drum.) I know it’s not Adobe’s fault that certain people dropped the ball that Mark Drew has carried like a true CF Hero. Yet, it’s not Adobe’s fault it suceeded either! WE NEED SOME LEADERSHIP!
    John Farrar

  9. I would like to see the rest of the list that didn’t make top ten. I guess Lotus Notes is still alive and well.

  10. Tariq, my thoughts too only I’m on the other side of the coin. I’m asking for hourly rates for contracting that just a couple years ago would’ve had recruiters hanging up on me and laughing at the water cooler. Why? IMHO cuz CF developers are leaving for other languages and there aren’t many competent developers picking it up. I wouldn’t say that means it’s toast but unless Adobe puts a bit more into it it’s going to continue to be Flash’s red-headed step child and slowly fade away.
    The article though, wow, couldn’t be further from the truth.

  11. @Vlado: Obviously, someone is reading these articles. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be commenting on it. And believe it or not, a lot of decision makers still get ComputerWorld mainly because they get a free subscription for filling out a long questionaire.

  12. This isn’t about whether or not it is actually dead/dying but the public perception of it is.
    For instance, I’ve hired a load of non-CF developers recently ( as I can’t find any good ones with previous CF experience ). Nearly every single one of them was initially amazed that we were using CF, a language that was long since "dead" and that no-one else was using.
    Obviously in the eyes of a CF developer, CF is not dead. In the same way OS/2 is not dead to someone who actively uses or supports it.
    It’s all about perception…

  13. Well put Neil,
    The issue is that CF has an inigma of being dead. Are they wrong, YES!
    Yet, as long as this inigma exists it will curtail sales. I remember going to a CF7 preview meeting where Ben told us how well CF was doing in the market. The audience was shocked that it was selling that well. Conclusion? Even the developers at large using the platform don’t have a clue of it’s life pulse.
    Along that note, I live off the side of the city and most developers in the area are ASP.Net or PHP. The PHP guys typiclcally choose the platform because it was Free. The ASP.Net guys got in because of one of two reasons. (1) It was MS and on the system… or Free, or (2) Because the IDE was free and they were able to build something with it. (Though it was simple since they got something built with it they didn’t want to start over and learn something else.)
    So where does that leave CF? I personally love using CFEclipse. Yet, new users aren’t going to jump in at that level. New users aren’t going to pay up for DW if they can try another more popular IDE for free.
    Summary: CF I alive! … but the current model makes it more of an "elite" development circle. One user group manager told me that to him CF developers are more pationate. (Is that because they are more pationate or because the lack of a free version of CF and/or simple IDE that is Free for starters is failing to offer "entry points" for the platform?)

  14. Very well written response to theComputerWorld article…..
    Mary Brandel obviously is not on any ColdFusion User Group mailing lists because the ColdFusion job offers are flooding email boxes right now.

  15. Onya Ben, If I responded I would not have been so forgiving.
    If the King is dead then long live the King!

  16. I program for the government and CF is a hard sale, EVEN though it is used in many agencies and departments. It seems that every time I try to advance CF, the IT managers all look at me like what is CF and No, we already have ASP. When they see the apps, then they are like WOW what is this and I say CF….Ohhhhh, * heads shaking * My point is after all of this, they still want CF’s capabilities in ASP because it is already cleared and documented for the servers. Now, on that note, understand that I have pushed CF into a whole new ballgame with the government. The new apps my team is building are going to cement CF in government (my branch) use for a long time to come. This is all thanks to CF 8 "Scorpio", Flex, FDS, FMS, and Google Maps. Personally, I do think Adobe should be advertising more to non-CF users and managers, specifically targeting the differences, advantages, and ROI as compared to ASP, Ruby, PHP, etc. Finally, I just want to say thanks to the entire Adobe team for the work and effort that has gone into CF 8 and Flex 2. This is the future and that is why I have invested (servers and stock) into Adobe.
    I believe!

  17. I worked in a government web hosting environment (NCC). There were two ASP/.Net guys. Two in Lotus Notes/ Domino group. Three or so Java people and one CGI/ Perl/ PHP guy. One. But there were also three overworked CF admins. So the government is doing a good bit of CF business – mostly behind firewalls of course. A stumbling block for Adobe’s CF server is price (even for government hosting for various agencies). But amazingly people will shell out for Oracle. I really don’t get that one.
    As far as Lotus Notes, I wish it would die a painful death (sorry if there are any Notes cheerleaders out there). But it has it’s claws in the government. And look at how big IBM itself is. That’s a lot of users. Also people are still developing Domino applications (even for the Feds). From what I have heard, they are cheap and easy to develop. Somewhere in there is a VB scriptish language for forms/ actions, which can be easy to pick up. Plus easy email integration.

  18. Don’t lump PowerBuilder in with those other technologies that haven’t been updated in years. PowerBuilder 11 will be released next month and like ColdFusion will continue to be enhanced for years to come.
    Dave Fish
    Technical Evangelist

  19. Dave!!!! Long time no chat man!!! You still in Australia?
    Anyways, Ben wasn’t the one that lumped PB into this list. It was the "journalist" from ComputerWorld. Along with PB, she threw CF into the dead pool which has caused a bit of a ruckus.
    Dude, hit me up so we can catch up. rey (a.t) reybango (d.o.t.) com.

  20. Where is the proof that ColdFusion developers are paid just as much? Also where is the marketshare? Has ColdFusion’s marketshare declined over the last few years? You question what she says, but do not provide any facts that it isn’t true.
    Also, because a person does analysis, even if some of that stuff is fluffy sounding (How to Survive a Bad Boss for example), it means she knows nothing of market changes, hiring/HR practices? There is no proof that she doesn’t know what she is talking about.
    As for ColdFusion 8, just because Adobe is releasing a new version it doesn’t mean it is a growing environment. It means that Adobe makes enough money to care about releasing a new version of the server/language. I don’t know the exact business reasons, but no one has said why they are as far as market share and profitability. Is it growing? I can’t say I know. Even if it is declining there are existing people willing to pay for bug fixes.
    Also, what does ColdFusion being built on Java have to do with anything? Okay, so it is. That doesn’t mean that because I am programming in ColdFusion I am programming in Java directly. ColdFusion is not Java.
    Even the Cobol article states that the companies that still use Cobol over half plan to or want to migrate away. Also, this Cobol article looks like research and shows an ability to do research.
    I really don’t feel like either one of you have proven or disproven anything.

  21. Finally a voice of reason! Thanks Ben for responding with reason and class. I normally ignore those type of articles, shaking my head saying, "What a load…", anyone in the CF biz knows very well it is anything but dying.
    Keep up the good work!
    Houston, TX

  22. What about Myspace.com?
    Everything I’ve seen on it is built in ColdFusion, and it’s one of the TOP websites on the internet, if not THE top site for traffic.
    That was a bad call, boo Mary Brandel.

  23. Myspace.com was built on CF, but now it passes it to .NET now I believe. It’s pretty much a wrapper.
    Also, Myspace crashes a lot and is very buggy.

  24. I’ve been thinking about this, and realised that almost no-one’s realised something quite obvious… To a Coldfusion developer, CF is thriving, to everyone else it may well be dying.
    For instance, nearly every developer here is a CF developer – and they comment on how there is so much demand. Well, of course there is, you are a CF developer! You will not be asked to code in anything else – and if the client doesn’t stipulate, you’ll still use CF to get the job done, purely because this is what you do.
    With regards to salaries – these are always subject to supply and demand. If wages are on the way up then either demand is on the way up – or the numbers of good CF developers are on the way down. Unfortunately there is no easy way of seeing these stats. Obviously Adobe could give us an idea of license sales growth/decline (which I would love to see paired up with Bluedragon).
    As far as I see it – CF has been on a fairly even keel for the last few years – neither growing massively (or falling). Maybe Adobe want to give us some stats to prove me wrong.

  25. Thanks, Ben. You have adroitly illustrated a point regarding the author: just because someone Can write, doesn’t mean they Should write.
    I’ve been using CF since 4.0, and my salary is just fine, thank you. And while my opinions don’t necessarily reflect those at NASA, I doubt we would have developed so many key apps in ColdFusion if it were a dying language.
    Keep up the good work and hope to see you out here soon.
    Dave Newton
    Marshall Space Flight Center
    Huntsville, Alabama

  26. Thanks Ben. Obviously ColdFusion is not dying but how do you convice your clients that CF is the right solution? I am giving a talk at CFUNITED-07 on "Selling ColdFusion to Clients" that will cover what strategies to use for selling ColdFusion to clients and how to deal with common objections that clients have. I also have partial results of the survey on your experience with what arguments have been working on the street at <a href=’http://teratech.com/blog/index.cfm/2007/5/30/ColdFusion-is-Alive-Partial-survey-results’>

  27. I’ve recently had to fend off these perceptions from my manager, who has heard Ruby and .NET are the latest and greatest, and ColdFusion should be left behind. As someone who has to code in multiple environments, I’ll take ColdFusion every time. Same with all our web analysts. I’m just hoping he doesn’t stumble upon this article…

  28. There is a lot of good commentary on both sides of the argument. As always, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
    Alas, many of the arguments come across as suggesting that there can be only one ‘right’ answer. This is not the case. Suffice it to say that the vast majority of the arguments from either side would carry a lot more weight if prefaced with a simple "In my case…" or "In my situation…"
    CF is not the answer to every problem. CF is a tool. It is a means to an end. It won’t solve your business’ problems. That takes people.
    I was not hired into my current position as a "CF programmer". I was hired to solve problems. My boss pays me to solve problems, and does not care (within reason) what means it takes to get there. I choose CF as the development platform because it allows me to do that quickly and efficiently.
    Others in this discussion were hired as "ASP Programmers" or "NET programmers". Or "ROR programmers". They may not have the freedom to dictate the environment like I do. For that reason, their loyalty to their language of choice is understandable. Alas the importance of the simple "In my case…" or "In my situation…"
    When I get paid to program in NET, I use NET. When I get paid to solve problems quickly, I program in CF.

  29. Tariq, my thoughts too only I’m on the other side of the coin. I’m asking for hourly rates for contracting that just a couple years ago would’ve had recruiters hanging up on me and laughing at the water cooler. Why? IMHO cuz CF developers are leaving for other languages and there aren’t many competent developers picking it up. I wouldn’t say that means it’s toast but unless Adobe puts a bit more into it it’s going to continue to be Flash’s red-headed step child and slowly fade away. <A HREF="http://www.cnhuxi.com"&gt;?????</A>

  30. I think a lot of you are arguing the wrong points: the technologies listed have declining popularity, but aren’t necessarily inferior.
    OS/2 was a superior operating system compared to DOS/Windows, but for various reasons, Windows won the popular vote. Similarly, Coldfusion is not a poor tool, but frankly it just isn’t as popular as it once was.
    There are many ways to measure that popularity, but a big one is that many people applying for jobs involving Coldfusion have little or no experience in Coldfusion. While that may be a symptom that many Coldfusion developers are quite satisfied with their current jobs, but in this economic climate, it is more likely an indication that fewer people have Coldfusion skills than other development skills.

  31. Mark,
    Let’s follow your senario. If there are more jobs than before for ColdFusion AND they are having to teach other developers how to do CF because the business is demading the skill without developer recommendations… hmm. That would be a growing language with a bright future! If we follow this thinking and there are more ??? platform skilled workers than jobs… heh, then they must by dead languages!

  32. John,
    I didn’t say there were more CF jobs than before – our experience is that CF programmers left (sometimes for non-CF jobs), and there aren’t many CF programmers applying to replace them. That’s not growth nor a bright future.

  33. I dunno. If you can program in another language you can learn ColdFusion pretty fast. Sometimes companies just feel stuck. I really don’t think everyone wants their legacy code in their legacy/out of date programming language. It’s just too costly to switch.

  34. For the entire 8 years that I have been a ColdFusion developer, I have been hearing comments such as "ColdFusion is dead" or "ColdFusion isn’t real programming" from various people – usually individuals who have practically zero familiarity with the product or the language.
    I’m not sure why this debate continues. Based on the millions of lines of CF code I have seen in the federal government and non-profit sectors, I have personally witnessed that it is still the backbone of many organizations. Every time I have looked for a new CF job, I have never had a shortage of interest and have increased my salary 20% or more with each switch.
    Sure, CF may not be as widely used as the twin towers of .Net and Java and open source alternatives such as Ruby or PHP may be more attractive to projects with smaller budgets. However, ColdFusion clearly has its niche and just because it is not the industry leader doesn’t mean it isn’t relevant or won’t survive. The Apple analogy is a good one – CF makes up a small fraction of the overall market but the product works as well, is easy to use, and has an incredibly loyal developer/customer base.

  35. PowerBuilder fade away – that’s crazy talk. I have been hearing that for 10 years now. What is the justification to your comment? Back it up!

  36. Typical .Net drone… This "journalist" is so full of CRAP her eyes smell bad! There are a number of tech journalist that obviously feel "if it aint from Redmond, WA, it’s doomed to fail" – Mary Brandel being one of them it appears.
    If you look at what Adobe is doing with ColdFusion 8, and it’s integration with Flash, you know that "little animation thingy" that Microsoft has been unsuccessfully trying to duplicate for years, and Flex, and Spry – Adobe’s AJAX framework, and now AIR (Adobe Runtime Inviroment) it’s very obvious that CF is not a "once popular" programming language, but rather a robust and GROWING development platform. You can also add to this the fact that CF is programmed in JAVA and can be compiled as native JAVA byte code, it is used by a huge number of government agencies and enterprise level organizations as a rapid development platform for Sun and IBM enterprise JAVA servers. Oh yeah, aren’t they competitors to Microsoft as well?
    CF 7 was adopted faster and by more enterprise level users than any previous version! And now with the full resources of Adobe, one of the top five software companies in the world squarely behind it, Version 8 promises to be a run away success.
    Computer World and a few other publications out there have been spewing this sort of bilge for years… Mean while, CF continues to grow and gain market share at the enterprise level, as well as being supported by more hosting providers all the time. And why are more hosts supporting CF… Because more and more of their customers want it!
    Will ColdFusion replace or overtake .NET? No, and neither I nor Adobe are so arrogant to offer such a notion… Too bad the .Net cronies and "jounalists" like Mary Brandel aren’t as sencable, reasonable or rational.

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