The cult of Delphi

Delphi's faithful followers grow in number and in spirit.

First of all, I would like to thank the Delphi community for honoring me with the Spirit of Delphi Award. Bob Swart and I were this year's recipients, and although I'm sure there are many others devoting more time and effort to spreading the word about Delphi, I am honored.

I took a gamble on a new programming language called Delphi five years ago. At that time, I was betting on a technology that might not survive. Here we are five years later, and much of Borland's success these days (maybe even its survival) is due to the product's popularity. 

Delphi has generated about 50 percent of Borland's revenues in recent years, but certainly has not accounted for 50 percent of its expenses. At this year's Inprise & Borland Conference, interim CEO Dave Fuller asserted that Delphi has kept Borland alive and showed his commitment to the product by doubling the size of its R&D team.

So it turns out that my gamble on Delphi has paid off. 

Worldwide Delphi

Delphi's popularity is especially strong outside of the Microsoft-dominated United States. According to Borland, European sales of the product have exceeded U.S. sales in some markets, which is very uncommon in the information technology industry. Living in Europe and receiving e-mail from Delphi programmers worldwide, I can testify to the product's solid international following. Europe hosts a number of Delphi conferences and events, has large and active Delphi user groups, and is home to some of the most popular Delphi Web sites (the Delphi Super Page, to name one) and magazines.

Delphi's following also spreads beyond Europe. My Delphi books have been translated into a number of languages and I get feedback from readers throughout the world. Looking at my e-mail, the largest numbers of Delphi programmers seem to be from Brazil and China. India, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, and a few South American countries run a close second. I've even received correspondence from Delphi programmers in the Sudan and Uzbekistan, two countries not particularly well-known for software development.

The number of Delphi Web sites is also impressive. Using search engines like Yahoo and AltaVista, I found three times as many Web pages about Microsoft Visual Basic as I found on Borland Delphi, which, oddly enough, is pretty remarkable. When you consider that VB sells far more copies than Delphi, the fact that there are only three times as many sites related to VB shows that Delphi programmers are much more active in promoting their language than their Visual Basic counterparts.

There are well over a thousand Web sites offering not only valuable information, but also help with Delphi. I promise I'll devote a column in the future to Delphi sites (let me know your favorite ones). Some sites might encourage you to buy their components, but offer other components for free. They also publish articles and white papers describing users' experiences with Delphi and host open-source efforts, which are becoming increasingly popular. These Delphi Web sites are written in many different languages and are hosted by people worldwide who, although they might have different goals, are united by one common desire: to spread the word about how great Delphi is.

I understand that Java and Linux programmers are also highly involved in promoting their tools, but they come in second to Delphi programmers in terms of enthusiasm. Users of Microsoft products are seldom this happy with their tools; they're satisfied with how they work, but don't often develop particular affection for the products.

Delphi is not only a product. It is a community. It is OUR community, growing and becoming more organized -- thanks in part to Borland's efforts, but mainly because of the faithful Delphi followers. You need only look at examples like the JEDI project or the highly active Borland newsgroups to see the passion.

Writing this column is another way to promote Delphi. The column is not only mine, it belongs to the entire Delphi community, so let me know what you want to see in it... and stay tuned.

Originally written for InPublishing LLC for publication by Inprise Corp. Copyright 1999 Inprise Corp.