The Racket Manifesto

Matthias Felleisen

The creation of a programming language calls for guiding principles that point the developers to goals. This talk spells out the three basic principles behind the 20-year development of Racket. Expressed as slogans, we say that
  1. Racket is a programming-language programming language
  2. Racket is a full-stack programming language
  3. Racket is a linguist's programming language
First, programming is about stating and solving problems, and this activity normally takes place in a context with its own language of discourse; good programmers ought to formulate this language as a programming language. Hence, Racket is a programming language for creating new programming languages. Second, by following this language-oriented approach to programming, systems become multi-lingual collections of interconnected components. Each language and component must be able to protect its specific invariants. In support, Racket offers protection mechanisms to implement a full language stack, from C-level bit manipulation to soundly typed extensions. Third, because Racket considers programming as problem solving in the correct language, Racket also turns extra-linguistic mechanisms into linguistic constructs, especially mechanisms for managing resources and projects. The paper explains these principles and how Racket lives up to them, presents the evaluation framework behind the design process, and concludes with a sketch of Racket's imperfections and opportunities for future improvements.