Okay, yes, this one was subjective. I figured that the language/VM controversy that GNOME went through in spring 2004 was fueled by people's desire for something nicer. I mean, part of the reason that Miguel was so into Mono was that writing Evolution in C was painful. And that out-of-process Bonobo components didn't perform as well as he had hoped. It's not just the language, it's also garbage collection and the type/component system that I think was part of the draw.
At the library level, C is a good choice in a lot of contexts, but when you start writing large applications like Evolution that I think people really start to want something different. Maybe "core" was the wrong word; I thought people used it to include things like Evolution, which is how I meant it.
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