(Alex Dixon / Flickr)
How did a programming language from the global South manage to make it into one of the world’s most popular web sites? Lua’s story, as it turns out, tells a lot about the globalization of software development and the difficulties faced by innovators in developing countries.
I first heard of Lua eight years ago, when I traveled to Rio de Janeiro to interview software engineers for a research project that was recently published as a book, Coding Places. While in Rio, I met “Rodrigo” (who has asked to remain anonymous), who worked on a free and open-source web platform. He surprised me by telling me that the project was based on a new programming language, Lua, developed by a small team at Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio), where Rodrigo had been a student.
I knew that PUC-Rio’s computer science program was considered one of Brazil’s best, and I was intrigued by the engineer’s reliance on local innovation. Even so, the project sounded futile. The world of software