I finally got around to watching Herb Sutter’s much promoted Future of C++ webcast that went out live last Friday on MSDN’s Channel 9.
The talk began with an update on Visual C++ detailing the work to include the remaining missing C++11 features. There seems to be criticism on some of the forums that no other compilers were mentioned in this update, but really, \\BUILD\ is a Microsoft conference, Herb works for Microsoft… seems fair enough to me.
Anyway, the second half of the talk was where things got really interesting (seriously!) for the global audience as we were provided with news of the ongoing C++ standardisation work. Herb is the current chair of the ISO C++ committee and it would appear that under his leadership we can expect some big changes to both the standardisation process and the C++ community itself.
Having started by highlighting the long wait between the original C++98 standard and last years C++11 standard, he then shifted focus to what we can expect in the next few years. It seems we will now see much more regular releases of Technical Specifications (possibly yearly in some cases) which could even enable a minor standard to be shipped in 2014 ahead of the next major standard: C++17.
As he has mentioned in previous talks, attendance at WG21 meetings is at levels never seen before. With this increase in available manpower a number of new study groups (SGs) have been formed for a number of projects (e.g. concurrency, modules, filesystem and networking). These groups can work and meet independently from the main Working Group and can also collaborate amongst themselves. Although this should make it easier to get results faster, proposed changes are still directed back through the Evolution Team (led by Bjarne Stroustrup) and to the main Working Group.
All this led nicely onto the next topic… How do we ensure that everyone is kept in the loop regarding all this progress? And the answer is via the new ISO C++ web site (www.isocpp.org). This is intended to be a ‘center of gravity for C++’ and a place to find quality resources relating to the standard language. Whereas before information was spread across the internet on various websites (hence the “Rebel Alliance” analogy), now everything can be in one place. For example, the classic ‘C++ FAQ’ will be available on this site.
Finally, Herb asked the question of who actually owns C++? Obviously, the ISO committee maintain the standard itself but there is no single organisation responsible for promoting the language. Well, until now it seems… The ‘Standard C++ Foundation’ has been created by a number of companies (e.g. Google, Microsoft, Bloomberg) who have a major interest in the language and who believe that investing in standard C++ is ‘good business’.
Personally I’m really excited about all this… I do believe we are going to see an increase in interest in C++ in the coming years. However, there does seem to be an enormous amount of ground to catch up on, especially with the standard libraries. I guess time will tell whether this is actually will turn out to be the renaissance previously heralded.