After over 3 years, The OCaml Journal is finally closing down. New subscriptions offer access to the 75 existing articles and only a few more articles will be published, to honour outstanding subscriptions.
This change has, of course, come about due to a dramatic fall in our revenue from OCaml products since 2007. This is partly because we decided in 2007 to jump ship to Microsoft's new F# programming language. However, the same trend can be seen in the rate of posts to the OCaml mailing lists, which has fallen 60% since 2007 and has now reached its lowest level for a decade:
We blame the inability of OCaml's garbage collector to allow threads to run in parallel as the primary reason for this mass exodus. OCaml was an awesome tool in the late 1990s and, by 2004, many people were finding the OCaml language from benchmark results that showed it to be one of the fastest languages available. Ironically, that was largely due to the superior performance of OCaml's garbage collector but that same garbage collector is now a serious impediment to parallel programming on today's multicore machines. Coupled with advancements like monomorphization on .NET and LLVM-based backends with vastly better code generation like GHC, OCaml has been left in the dust. Consequently, the majority of OCaml programmers who had chosen it for performance reasons (many of whom were research scientists) are leaving.
OCaml also suffers from several other problems including the cumbersome FFI that requires separate C stubs and the lack of a native-code REPL. However, all of these problems could be addressed by developing a new VM. Indeed, at only 2kLOC our own HLVM project has demonstrated just how easy LLVM makes it to build a new high-performance multicore-capable VM for OCaml-like languages. We believe a complete replacement could be developed in just a few months but, sadly, nobody has done any work on this beyond our own tentative attempts with HLVM.
On the other hand, there was never any onus on an academic institution to create such a useful tool in the first place so it is important to remember that OCaml was only valuable thanks to the hard work and dedication of its academic creators. Thanks INRIA!