I never expected to see this. When I started my career, Object-Oriented Programming (OOP) was going mainstream. For many problems, it was and still is a natural way to modularize an application. It grew to (mostly) rule the world. Now it seems that the supremacy of objects may be coming to an end, of sorts.
I say this because of recent trends in our industry and my hands-on experience with many enterprise and Internet applications, mostly at client sites. You might be thinking that I’m referring to the mainstream breakout of Functional Programming (FP), which is happening right now. The killer app for FP is concurrency. We’ve all heard that more and more applications must be concurrent these days (which doesn’t necessarily mean multithreaded). When we remove side effects from functions and disallow mutable variables, our concurrency issues largely go away. The success of the Actor model of concurrency, as used to great effect in Erlang, is one example of a functional-style approach. The rise of map-reduce computations is another example of a functional technique going mainstream. A related phenomenon is the emergence of key-value store databases, like BigTable and CouchDB, is a reaction to the overhead of SQL databases, when the performance cost of the Relational Model isn’t justified. These databases are typically managed with functional techniques, like map-reduce.
But actually, I’m thinking of something else. Hybrid languages like Scala, F#, and OCaml have demonstrated that OOP and FP can complement each other. In a given context, they let you use the idioms that make the most sense for your particular needs. For example, immutable “objects” and functional-style pattern matching is a killer combination.