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New REBOL Messaging Language Aimed at Net Users

John Abbott, ComputerWire, May 10, 1999:

Start-up, Rebol Technologies Inc. is set to announce the first commercial version of the Rebol messaging language today (Monday). Rebol Version 2.0 is a major upgrade of Rebol, an "internet native" language which has been available free for a number of years and which has been downloaded by around 40,000 users to date. Rebol, based in Ukiah, California, was founded three years ago by CEO Carl Sassenrath, who wrote the Rebol language. The company was incorporated in March 1998, when it received its first outside funding from Avalon Investments. It hopes to sell its technology to web site developers and internet service providers.

Sassenrath has spent 20 years developing computing languages, starting at Hewlett-Packard Co. in the early 1980s. Rebol's development comes follows the lineage of Self, Smalltalk and subsequent object-oriented languages, but Sassenrath aimed at creating a language with greater expressivity and economy, and one more readable by humans. Most languages are good at commands and expressions for executing algorithms, but less good at dealing with data and relationships. Sassenrath came up with the concept of dialects, a sub-language which can be tailored for a particular domain. Dialects and words are used as symbols which are passed through the network and exchanged. The interpretation of the message depends on what the message is -- it might, for instance, be a stock transaction.

Rebol is an interpreted language, and, like TCL, Perl and Python, can be used for scripting, although Sassenrath claims it is much easier to use. It is also intended as a replacement for "anachronistic" programming languages such as C++ and Java. Version 2 is said to be up to forty times faster than the original, half the size with twice the features. It currently runs on 15 platforms, including PCs, Macintoshes, AmigaOS, Linux and various Unixes, with more ports on the way. Written in C, it only takes a few days to complete a port to another platform. The core product will remain free. But shortly, the company will launch Rebol Alliance, which will include professional features such as ODBC connectivity and the ability to spawn off other applications. Rebol Professional will follow for ISPs and corporates, including more powerful debugging capabilities, secure sockets and e-commerce support. Rebol Author for icon-based development, and Rebol Media for sound and graphics support are also in the pipeline.

The company, which although not an open source advocate, is basing its commercial model along the lines of similar companies such as SendMail Inc. and Scriptics Inc., intends to start with home and individual users and move up through small businesses to ISPs and corporates. It says that if Rebol takes off, it could start to be passed around the network in place of binary of HTML data. Red Hat Software Inc. already bundles an earlier version of Rebol with Linux 5.2, and Sassenrath says he is interested in establishing similar bundling deals.

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