Inko Progress Report: January 2022

Published on by Yorick Peterse

It's been a while since our last update, with the last release being in December 2020 and the last progress report being published in December 2019. Not because there was no progress, but because we decided to make various big changes to Inko.

Memory management and a new compiler

The first big change is that we're doubling down on removing the use of garbage collection, instead using a single ownership model to manage memory. This provides many benefits, and we believe it will make Inko a compelling language to use when compared to the likes of Ruby, Python, and similar languages. You can read more about this in the article "Friendship ended with the garbage collector".

As part of this effort we're rewriting our compiler: instead of using Ruby we're using Rust. The Ruby compiler has always been more of a prototype rather than a production compiler, and adjusting it to support the new memory model proved impossible. Since we're already using Rust for the VM, it made sense to also use it for the compiler. This change should also make it easier to install Inko, as Ruby is no longer required.

Based on recent progress, we estimate about 80% of the work is done, and we intend to finish the remaining 20% in February. Once the type-checker is implemented we'll start work on lifetime analysis, code generation, and some basic compile-time optimisations (e.g. inlining trivial getter methods). Other optimisations such as dead code removal, devirtualisation and more/better inlining is something we intend to focus on after releasing all the current changes.

A new website

As part of all this work we've also given the website an overhaul. We've decided to release this overhaul ahead of time rather than wait until the next release, making it easier to explain the direction Inko is heading in, and what it will have to offer.

The manual has yet to be updated, we'll do so once all changes have been merged into the master branch.

We're working on Inko full-time

Another big change is that we're now working on Inko full-time, as announced in this article. This is already proving to have a positive impact, as in January alone we've already made a lot of progress. For the time being we are self-funding the development of Inko. In the future we hope to gather enough monthly donations to cover the development costs. If you'd like to support this effort, please consider donating using GitHub Sponsors.

Following along

If you'd like to follow along with the progress made, we recommend joining the Matrix channel or the #inko channel in the /r/ProgrammingLanguages Discord server.