Just like spoken languages, programming languages evolve. Popular languages like C++, Java, and Python have all changed dramatically over time. As the needs of programmers change, languages adopt new features or modify existing ones. These alterations are usually made by committees that manage the language or users who create libraries (plugins that make it simpler to complete tasks) that are shared and become integral parts of the language.
In the case of the wildly popular statistical programming language R, it’s been more about revolution than evolution. The changes keep coming.
Last month, R users from across the world gathered in Toulouse, France to discuss new developments at the useR! conference, the language’s premier international gathering. At nearly every talk I attended, the name Hadley Wickham was mentioned. Wickham is the language’s most important developer. Over the past decade, along with his collaborators, Wickham built a set of popular data analysis and visualization libraries (also known as packages) called the “tidyverse,” which has almost become its own language. Wickham’s libraries are among the most popular in R, and have become the standard for new learners. (R is free to use.)