The idea was to make the C++ programming language work better in Microsoft’s .NET framework. It started off as the Managed Extensions for C++, first available in 2000, and later in Visual Studio .NET 2003. Managed Extensions were reformulated in Visual Studio 2005 where they were called C++/CLI, referring to the Common Language Infrastructure, the runtime abstraction in .NET.
CLI itself had earlier been standardized in Ecma (approved in 2000) and Fast Tracked through ISO (approved in 2001). So, it was not much of a surprise when the C++ variant for Microsoft’s .NET Framework, C++/CLI, was proposed for standardization as well. Ecma TC39/TG5 started work on C++/CLI in December 2003 and Ecma approved the specification as Ecma-372 in December 2005. Two years in committee, resulting in a 304-page specification. This used to be considered a fast pace.
After approval by Ecma, C++/CLI was submitted for Fast Track processing to ISO/IEC JTC1/SC22 as DIS 26926. Like any other Fast Track in JTC1, this process started with a 30-day contradiction period. Contradiction submissions were made by both Germany[pdf] and the UK[pdf].
The UK’s position was that calling the standard “C++/CLI” would cause, and in fact was already causing, confusion among users with the already existing C++ programming language. The name of the standard was unacceptable:
We consider that C++/CLI is a new language with idioms and usage distinct from C++. Confusion between C++ and C++/CLI is already occurring and is damaging to both vendors and consumers.
A new language needs a new name. We therefore request that Ecma withdraw this document from fast-track voting and if they must re-submit it, do so under a name which will not conflict with Standard C++.
Similar views were expressed by Germany:
With reference to §13.4 of the JTC1 Directives, 4th edition, DIN brings to the attention of the JTC1 secretariat that we perceive a contradiction between document JTC 1 N 8037 “30 Day Review for Fast Track Ballot ECMA-372 1st edition C++/CLI Language Specification”and the JTC1/C++ standard ISO/IEC 14882:2004 “Programming language C++” and related technical reports.
We propose that the document is input into SC22 as a regular New Work Item Proposal and assigned to WG21 for further processing.
Ecma responded[pdf] to these objections in a 5-page letter, on 29 January 2006, that refused to make even the most basic concession, such as changing the name to remove the C++ reference.
So the objections are ignored, and they move on to the 5-month ballot period, starting March 9th, 2006. When the ballot closed in August, and the votes were counted, C++/CLI had received 11 out of 20 P-Member votes (55%) and a total of 9 negative votes out of 26 total votes cast, or 34.61%. So it failed both to get the required 2/3 approval of P-Members, as well as to keep the negative votes to less than 25%.
Germany and the UK voted disapproval. No surprise there, since they had objected early in the process, and their objections were ignored. In fact one of Germany’s comments in the ballot was:
DIN has commented before, as well as BSI did, that allowing fast-track standardization of the “C++/CLI Language” under this name clearly conflicts with an existing and actively maintained standard: ISO 14882 – the C++ Programming Language. The document under review spells out under “NOTE FROM ITTF”, bullet 2.2, that ITTF will ascertain that this proposed standard does not conflict with any other International Standard but such a conflict was pointed out. No reason has been given why this objection was overridden. Thus, DIN wants to express its surprise that standardization of this proposal went forward.
The US comments included:
The proposed standard is not market driven, nor is it the product of an industry consensus.
We are unimpressed with the very low level of C++ community participation mustered in the design and refinement of the current document, and feel, quite frankly, that the current state of this document is not at a high enough level of technical excellence to merit the ISO imprimatur.
This document should be withdrawn from the fasttrack approval process pending re-drafting and a more adequate review prior to voting. Better yet, retain it as an Ecma standard only until a clear market consensus develops that a JTC1 standard in this area is needed.
And so on, down the list.
It should be noted that a failing vote in the 5-month ballot is not necessarily fatal. The Fast Track submitter, in this case Ecma, can call on the SC Secretariat to convene a Ballot Resolution Meeting (BRM), where the issues can be discussed and resolved, possibly leading to a positive vote after a further ballot. This is Ecma’s right as a Fast Track submitter. However, C++/CLI did not see a ballot resolution meeting. The JTC1 Secretariat recently notified SC22 members:
We have been advised that the comments accompanying the Fast Track ballot for DIS 26926 are not resolvable and that holding a Ballot Resolution Meeting (BRM) would not be productive or result in a document that would be acceptable to the JTC 1 National Bodies. Therefore, our proposal is to not hold the BRM and to cancel the project.
So, the BRM which had been scheduled for April, 2007 has been canceled, and that’s where it stands today, with the attempted Fast Track of C++/CLI dead from seemingly easily preventable flaws.
Don’t ignore NB members. If they take the time and make the effort to point out your flaws early in the process, then you should count yourself lucky. This is like the school teacher walking around the classroom during a quiz and pointing to one of your answers and saying, “You might want to take another look at that problem”. If you ignore her advice and just turn in your paper, then you deserve the grade you get.
It is instructive as well that although only two NB’s objected in the C++/CLI contradiction period, this grew to a far larger number by the time the 5-month ballot had ended. Ignoring problems doesn’t make them go away.
One last thing. Any guesses on how long those contradiction arguments stay online before they are taken down to preserve the shrouded secrecy of ISO process? I advise you to make a copy now. I certainly have.