Choosing the best programming language is akin to selecting the right tool for a job. The decision can significantly impact the efficiency and success of a software development project.
In this article, we will explore the key factors to consider when deciding on a programming language and delve into the characteristics of some of the most popular languages adopted in the industry today.
One crucial factor in choosing a programming language is its ease of learning. For beginners, languages with simple syntax and comprehensive documentation are advantageous.
Different languages excel in various domains. Consider whether you’re developing a web application, a mobile app, or working on system-level programming.
The strength of a programming language’s community is vital. Robust communities often mean better support, more resources, and faster problem-solving. Community support is crucial; it provides resources, assistance, and a network of developers, especially for troubleshooting.
This is more of a consideration if you’re a developer and may not apply to businesses unless you’re looking to train your staff to learn in-demand programming languages.
The demand for certain programming languages in the job market should not be overlooked. High demand can lead to more job opportunities and potentially higher salaries.
Python is a high-level, interpreted, and general-purpose programming language known for its readability and simplicity. It was created by Guido van Rossum and first released in 1991. Python supports multiple programming paradigms, including procedural, object-oriented, and functional programming.
Guido van Rossum started developing Python in the late 1980s, and the first official release, Python 0.9.0, came out in 1991. The language has evolved through multiple versions, with Python 2 being a widely used version until its end of life in 2020. Python 3, introduced in 2008, brought several improvements and is the current standard.
Python’s syntax emphasises code readability and simplicity. It uses indentation (whitespace) to define code blocks instead of curly braces or keywords. Python uses a dynamic typing system, meaning variable types are determined at runtime. The language provides extensive standard libraries and frameworks, contributing to its versatility.
Here’s a simple example of a Python code to complete the most basic task of them all.
# Hello World program
As you can see, the syntax is super simple, and fairly straightforward which makes it easy to understand and particularly suitable for beginners and rookie programmers – more on this in the next section.
Python’s readability, versatility, and extensive community support make it a powerful and widely adopted language for various applications. Let’s explore these benefits, shall we?
Versatility in Applications: Python is renowned for its versatility, making it suitable for web development, data science, artificial intelligence, and more.
User-friendly Syntax: Its clean and readable syntax is particularly welcoming to beginners. Python is often recommended for its simple syntax and readability, making it beginner-friendly.
Growing Community and Libraries: Python boasts a large and active community, resulting in extensive libraries and resources. The Python Software Foundation oversees its development and provides support.
Integrations: Python easily integrates with other languages and systems, allowing seamless incorporation of code written in different languages.
Built-in Productivity: Python’s simplicity and extensive libraries facilitate rapid development, enhancing overall productivity.
While it may not be the fastest language, its countless advantages often outweigh its disadvantages in many scenarios. With that said, let’s go over some of those disadvantages in further detail.
Speed/Performance: As Python is a high-level language, it is often slower than lower-level languages due to the additional layers of abstraction and the need for interpretation or compilation.
High-level languages are designed to be more human-readable and easier to use, which can result in less efficient machine code generation and execution. So, this can be a concern for performance-critical applications.
Global Interpreter Lock (GIL): The GIL can limit the execution of multiple threads in Python, impacting the performance of multi-threaded applications.
Mobile Development: Python is not as widely used in mobile app development compared to languages like Java or Swift which are famed for their applicability in mobile software development.
Data Science and Machine Learning: Python has become the language of choice for data analysis and machine learning, with libraries such as NumPy, Pandas, and TensorFlow.
Web Development: Frameworks like Django and Flask are widely used for building web applications which is a testament to the versatility of Python.
Automation and Scripting: Python is commonly used for automating repetitive tasks and writing scripts for system administration.
Desktop Applications: Python is used in GUI development with libraries like Tkinter and PyQt.
Network Servers and Protocols: Python is used to create network servers, and its simplicity makes it suitable for networking protocols.
Notably, it provides versatile application programming interfaces (APIs) for tasks involving text manipulation, date handling, regular expressions, standard data structures, and manipulation of the Document Object Model (DOM).
jQuery stands out as the preeminent client-side library, commanding usage on over 75% of websites. Its popularity stems from its effectiveness in simplifying tasks related to DOM manipulation and event handling.
Often paired with frameworks like Next.js, React’s focus on the user interface and efficient component rendering allows for optimal performance. Notably, React’s advantage lies in selectively rerendering only the changed portions of a page, minimising unnecessary updates to unchanged DOM elements.
Angular, often referred to as “Angular 2+,” stands as a TypeScript-based, open-source single-page web application framework led by the Angular Team at Google and a diverse community. A complete rewrite from its predecessor AngularJS, Angular is widely adopted for its structured approach to building robust web applications.
Like the two other programming languages we’ve covered already, Java is also a high-level, object-oriented, and versatile programming language known for its “Write Once, Run Anywhere” (WORA) philosophy. Developed by James Gosling and his team at Sun Microsystems in the mid-1990s, Java has become widely used for developing cross-platform applications, web-based content, and enterprise-level software solutions.
The development of Java began in 1991, with the first public release in 1995. It aimed to provide a platform-independent language that could run on any device, a vision realised through the creation of the Java Virtual Machine (JVM). Java quickly gained popularity due to its portability, security features, and robustness. In 2010, Oracle Corporation acquired Sun Microsystems, becoming the steward of Java’s continued development.
Platform Independence (WORA): Java’s “Write Once, Run Anywhere” feature allows developers to write code on one platform and run it on any other platform with a Java Virtual Machine (JVM).
Object-Oriented Nature: Java’s object-oriented approach promotes code reusability, modularity, and ease of maintenance.
Robust and Secure: Java’s strict compile-time and runtime checking contribute to robust applications. It also includes security features like automatic memory management and a sandbox model to ensure secure execution.
Large Standard Library: Java offers a comprehensive standard library that simplifies development by providing a wide range of pre-built functionalities.
Multi-threading Support: Java supports multithreading, allowing concurrent execution of multiple threads, which is crucial for building responsive and scalable applications.
Community and Ecosystem: Java boasts a large and active community, resulting in an extensive ecosystem of libraries, frameworks, and tools.
Scalability: Java’s scalability makes it suitable for both small-scale applications and large enterprise-level systems.
Performance Overhead: Java, being an interpreted language, can have performance overhead compared to natively compiled languages like C or C++.
Memory Consumption: Java applications might consume more memory compared to applications written in languages like C, which can be a concern for resource-constrained environments.
Learning Curve: The object-oriented nature and some advanced features may result in a steeper learning curve for beginners.
Verbosity: In programming, verbosity refers to the excessive or unnecessary use of words in code, documentation, or communication, thereby resulting in inefficiencies. Java code can be more verbose compared to some modern programming languages, leading to longer code files.
Lack of Functional Programming Features: While Java has introduced some functional programming features in recent versions, it may not be as expressive in this paradigm as languages specifically designed for functional programming.
Enterprise-level Applications: Java is widely used for building large-scale enterprise applications, including customer relationship management (CRM) systems, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, and financial applications.
Web Development: Java, particularly with frameworks like Spring, is employed for developing robust and scalable web applications.
Mobile Applications: Java is used for Android app development, making it a prominent language for mobile application development.
Embedded Systems: Java is utilised in developing embedded systems and Internet of Things (IoT) applications due to its portability and platform independence.
Big Data Processing: Java, with tools like Apache Hadoop and Apache Spark, is widely used in big data processing for tasks such as data analysis and machine learning.
Cloud-based Applications: Java is employed in developing cloud-based applications, leveraging its portability across different cloud platforms.
To summarise, Java’s platform independence, robustness, and extensive ecosystem have made it a prominent player in various domains, from enterprise-level systems to web and mobile applications.
However, developers must consider factors like performance and verbosity when choosing Java for specific projects.
C++ is a general-purpose programming language designed as an extension of the C programming language with additional features like object-oriented programming. Created by Bjarne Stroustrup in the early 1980s, C++ is known for its efficiency, performance, and flexibility, making it suitable for a wide range of applications.
Bjarne Stroustrup developed C++ at Bell Labs as an enhancement to the C language. The first version, C++98, was standardised in 1998, followed by C++11, C++14, and C++17, each introducing new features and improvements. C++ is widely used in systems programming, game development, embedded systems, and various other application domains.
Efficiency and Performance: C++ provides low-level memory access, enabling developers to write highly efficient and performant code.
Object-Oriented Programming: C++ supports object-oriented programming, allowing for the creation of modular and reusable code.
Versatility: C++ is versatile and applicable to a broad range of domains, including systems programming, game development, and high-performance applications.
Standard Template Library (STL): The STL offers a rich collection of pre-built classes and functions, enhancing code efficiency and reducing development time.
Community and Libraries: C++ has a robust community and a vast ecosystem of libraries and frameworks, facilitating development across various domains.
Complex Syntax: C++ can have a steeper learning curve due to its complex syntax, especially for beginners.
Memory Management: Manual memory management in C++ can lead to memory leaks and is more error-prone compared to languages with automatic memory management.
Lack of Garbage Collection: Unlike some modern languages, C++ does not have built-in garbage collection, requiring careful memory management by the developer.
Verbosity: C++ code just like Java can be verbose, which may result in longer development times and more lines of code compared to some higher-level languages.
System Software: C++ is widely used in developing system software, including operating systems and device drivers.
Game Development: Many game engines such as Unreal Engine 5 as well as video games developed with it are built using C++ for their performance and control over system resources.
Embedded Systems: C++ is utilised in developing firmware and software for embedded systems due to its efficiency and low-level access.
High-Performance Applications: C++ is suitable for high-performance applications like financial systems, simulations, and real-time applications.
Graphics and Multimedia: C++ is commonly used in graphics libraries and multimedia applications due to its efficiency in handling complex computations.
Ruby is a dynamic, object-oriented scripting language known for its simplicity and readability. Yukihiro Matsumoto (“Matz”) designed Ruby in the mid-1990s to emphasise developer happiness and productivity. Ruby has gained popularity for its elegant syntax and focus on human-friendly code.
Ruby was first released in 1995 and has undergone several versions, with Ruby 1.8, Ruby 1.9, and the current standard, Ruby 2. x. Ruby gained international recognition with the advent of the Ruby on Rails web framework, which facilitated the development of web applications.
Developer-Friendly Syntax: Ruby’s syntax is concise and human-readable, making it easy for developers to write and understand code.
Productivity: Ruby’s focus on developer happiness contributes to increased productivity, with fewer lines of code needed to achieve functionality.
Dynamic Typing: Ruby is dynamically typed, allowing for flexibility in code development without the need for explicit type declarations.
Rails Framework: Ruby on Rails (RoR) is a powerful web development framework that has significantly contributed to Ruby’s popularity, providing conventions and simplifying web application development.
Community and Gems: Ruby has a vibrant and active community, and the RubyGems package manager provides access to a vast collection of libraries and tools, known as “gems.”
Performance: Ruby’s interpreted nature can result in slower execution speed compared to languages that are compiled into native machine code.
Concurrency and Parallelism: Ruby’s Global Interpreter Lock (GIL) can limit concurrent execution, making it less suitable for highly concurrent and parallel applications.
Memory Consumption: Ruby applications may consume more memory compared to some lower-level languages, which can be a concern for resource-constrained environments.
Limited in System Programming: Ruby might not be the first choice for system-level programming or applications that demand low-level memory manipulation.
Web Development: Ruby, especially with the Ruby on Rails framework, is widely used for developing web applications with a focus on simplicity and convention over configuration.
Prototyping and Startups: Ruby’s developer-friendly syntax and rapid development capabilities make it suitable for prototyping and startups looking to quickly build and iterate on ideas.
Automation and Scripting: Ruby is employed for automation and scripting tasks due to its readability and ease of use.
Education: Ruby is often used in educational settings to teach programming due to its readability and focus on beginner-friendly concepts.
GUI Applications: Ruby can be used to develop graphical user interface (GUI) applications with the help of libraries like Shoes or GUI frameworks like JRuby.
Consider the specific requirements of your project and your personal preferences when selecting a programming language. The right choice will depend on the nature of the task at hand.
The debate surrounding the best programming language is highly subjective. The reality is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Each language has its strengths and weaknesses, and the best choice depends on the context.
The best programming language for one business and a particular project may not be feasible for another, and vice versa. Also, it’s common to use multiple languages in complex projects based on their strengths and compatibility. So, you don’t need to be concerned about relying on just one language that is the so-called “best” when you can leverage multiple languages and get the best of all worlds.
With all that said, based on industry trends, this is what we’ve observed in terms of the programming language of choice in the following domains of software development.
Web development frameworks such as Ruby on Rails (Ruby), Django (Python), and Laravel (PHP) also continue to be prominent choices for building scalable and feature-rich web applications.
Python is the predominant language for data science and machine learning, supported by popular libraries like NumPy, Pandas, and TensorFlow.
Python’s simplicity, vast ecosystem, and community support make it the go-to language for data analysis, machine learning model development, and AI applications.
C and C++ continue to dominate systems programming for their performance and low-level control. Rust is gaining popularity for systems programming with a focus on memory safety.
Industries like operating systems development, embedded systems, and game development heavily rely on C, C++, and Rust for building efficient and reliable systems.
Cloud providers offer SDKs and support for multiple languages, but Java and Python are commonly chosen for developing cloud-native applications and services.
Solidity (Ethereum) is a prominent language for smart contract development, while Rust and C++ are used for blockchain protocol development.
The blockchain industry witnesses the use of specific languages tailored for decentralised applications, ensuring security and reliability in smart contract execution.
C and C++ are predominant for embedded systems programming due to their low-level capabilities and close-to-hardware control.
Industries like automotive, IoT and industrial automation heavily rely on C and C++ for developing firmware and software for embedded devices.
Python, with libraries like TensorFlow and PyTorch, is the leading language for AI development. Julia is emerging as an option for high-performance computing in AI.
AI applications in industries such as healthcare, finance, and autonomous vehicles predominantly use Python for its simplicity and extensive library support.
C++ is a longstanding choice for game development, owing to its performance and the availability of robust game engines like Unreal Engine and Unity.
The gaming industry continues to leverage C++ for creating high-performance, visually appealing, and interactive gaming experiences.
In conclusion, the best programming language is subjective and context-dependent. It’s essential to assess your project’s needs, consider the application, and weigh factors like ease of learning and community support. By making an informed decision, you can set yourself up for success in your programming endeavours.
Languages like Java, with platform independence, are a robust choice for enterprise applications and mobile development. Ruby, designed for developer satisfaction, excels in web development, notably with Ruby on Rails. And, lastly, C++ is an efficient language for systems programming, game development, and high-performance applications.
If you found this guide helpful, explore some of our articles in our learning center. And, if you’re seeking insights into the best programming language and associated technologies for your software project, get in touch with us. We’d love to help you out!
January 08, 2024