Evolution of the R native interface

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Evolution of the R native interface

Lukas Stadler

I hope you don’t mind me posting this call for participation - I do think the matter at hand is very important for the people on this list, and the people on this list are very important for the matter at hand.

For historical reasons, the native API provided by R for use by applications and packages is not as concise and consistent as is could be, and is tied into the internals of the implementation of the language. This makes writing native code components more complex than necessary, and thus increases the entry barrier for writing applications and packages. It also hinders evolution of the R runtime, because it restricts the freedom to change internal implementation details, and prevents alternative implementations from supporting all R applications and packages.

The R consortium’s infrastructure steering committee (ISC) recently decided to create a working group that intends to explore the future of R’s native APIs [1]:
“Future-proof native APIs for R: This working groups will assess current native API usage, gather community input, and work towards an easy-to-understand, consistent and verifiable API that will drive R language adoption.”

In order to do so, we are hoping to create a diverse group, inviting different stakeholders:
people working on the core of the R implementation and package system
R package authors and maintainers
developers of alternative implementations of the R language
people interested in R’s development for various other reasons

We’d like to answer questions like:
API evolution or API revolution?
should there be one interface covering all use cases, or multiple targeted interfaces?
what are the basic design principles behind the new API?
how can adoption of such an interface work?

Please let me know whether you’re interested in this - we would be glad if some of you would join this effort and participate in the working group.

The working group will operate via email [2], a wiki page [3] and teleconferences.
We also plan to have an in-person meeting at this year’s useR! conference.

Also, if you have someone in mind that should be part of the working group, please let us know. We may not have thought of them yet.

Best Regards,
 Lukas Stadler

[1] https://www.r-consortium.org/news/announcement/2016/03/r-consortium-funds-technical-initiatives-community-events-and-training <https://www.r-consortium.org/news/announcement/2016/03/r-consortium-funds-technical-initiatives-community-events-and-training>
[2] http://lists.r-consortium.org/mailman/listinfo/rconsortium-wg-api <http://lists.r-consortium.org/mailman/listinfo/rconsortium-wg-api>
[3] https://wiki.r-consortium.org/view/R_Native_API <https://wiki.r-consortium.org/view/R_Native_API>

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