Every now and then, another rating of the most popular programming languages arrives, prompting decision-makers to question the choice of language for their new project. Luckily, various ratings by RedMonk, GitHub, PyPL Index, Tiobe, StackOverflow and suchlike depict that the changes on the top 10 languages list are subtle. We have compiled our own go-to guide to the best coding languages in relation to the business challenges they address.
Also, just for fun, we’ve prepared a bonus section: a short overview of languages that were once very popular but not anymore.
Factors to Consider
Before we proceed to the list, let’s explore the various factors that may influence our choice. Frequently, the team’s skillset is the only determinant. However, making the decision solely using this factor is likely to bring difficulties in the future.
On top of the existing team’s expertise, there are technical aspects that should be prioritized when deciding on a language:
- Technological characteristics and performance capabilities of the language — elasticity, coding speed, performance, memory consumption, IDE availability, error handling
- Technological considerations — infrastructure, platform, technology, legacy codebase, frameworks, architectural environment
- Security considerations
- Economic considerations — the costs of licensing, employee training and codebase migration
- Legal considerations
- Project’s business objective that the ultimate solution is expected to address
The business objective is the aspect that we would like to consider closely. In this brief overview, we will leave out the technicalities and focus on the most popular languages with respect to the business needs they meet.
We’ve based this guide on the most recent TIOBE index for February 2020 and arranged the leading coding languages in alphabetical order.
High speed, stability, efficiency and availability are among the reasons why C is popular for addressing various technological and business challenges. Moreover, other languages’ libraries, interpreters, compilers and reference implementations are often written in C, which is why it is used as an intermediate language.
C mainly serves for system programming, such as operating system and embedded system development. Because of its thin abstraction layer and low overhead, C enables the creation of computationally intensive solutions — MATLAB, Mathematica and other. It also supports the development of end-user applications; however, there are more up-to-date and higher-level languages that better serve this purpose.
Released in the early 80s as the extension of C — “C with Classes” — C++ has significantly improved over time and has transformed into a high-performing language. A lot of vendors implement it as a compiled language — IBM, Oracle, Intel, Microsoft and others.
Like its ancestor, C++ was initially designed for system programming and embedded development. Now, its use spans resource-limited software — video games, desktop enterprise applications, servers — and high-speed applications. It is also a good choice for scientific computing and mathematical software.
Another offspring of С, C# was created as its incremental compiling version — even its name indicates it. Called after a musical note, the sharp sign depicts that this language is just a semitone different from its ancestor. The project has failed, but the name is still alive.
In 2001, Microsoft once again created the language for its .NET initiative, to develop software components that are deployed in distributed environments. Since then, C# powers solutions based on the .NET framework and serves enterprise and game development, data visualization and storage.
|Read also: .NET Framework vs .NET Core — What’s the Difference?|
Go, frequently referred to as Golang, is a rising star, and we could not leave it out in the cold. Google’s pet project, this modern language was designed to create distributed systems and powerful software that can address “real-world challenges,” such as low-speed program setup, uncontrolled dependencies, duplication, cross-language interoperability and many others.
Since its creation in 2009, Go has been steadily gaining momentum, and it now occupies the 11th position in TIOBE Index for February 2020. Some experts predict that the chances that one day Golang will substitute C and C++ are high.
This general-purpose, object-oriented language named after coffee has been on the market since 1996 and is not about to roll over. In fact, statistics show that Java is the number one programming language when it comes to the number of job postings. Write Once, Run Anywhere, as Java’s slogan asserts — what this all about?
With Java, a business kills two birds with one stone: it can build any software, from comprehensive business systems to desktop software to robust Android-based mobile applications. This versatile language is also efficient in creating data visualization software, distributed systems, data storage solutions and Big Data management software.
|Read also: Java — Is It the Best Language for Artificial Intelligence?|
|Read also: Top Ten Software Development Trends for 2020-2021|
The acronym PHP was originally short for “Personal Home Page.” Over time, it morphed into “PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor” — it is obvious that was designed for web development. Since its release in 1995, PHP has powered thousands of websites and is still the number one web development language. It continues to become ever more efficient, cost-effective and faster.
WordPress, Drupal and Joomla use PHP as the server-side language, with Facebook and Wikipedia relying on it as well. Besides its use in the web context, PHP also enables the development of graphical and drone control applications.
|Read also: PHP vs. Node.js — Which Is the Best for Server-Side Development?|
Amazing but true, this language was not called after a snake — instead, it’s named after Monty Python! For almost 30 years, Python has been proclaiming code readability and visual succinctness, heavy use of significant whitespace, English keywords instead of punctuation and logical coding as its design philosophy.
Python serves for a wide variety of purposes: the development of extensive web applications, data storage, Big Data processing, data science, data visualization, video games, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and information security. For many operating systems, Python has become a standard component. Also, it is the number one choice when it comes to script writing, complex structure rendering and natural language processing.
SQL, or Structured Query Language, was created almost 50 years ago to manage data that are held in databases and ensure the smooth communication of data repositories with other system components. Now, it is the standard language for relational database management systems.
RDBMS solutions from prominent market players, such as Microsoft, Oracle and Ingress, all use SQL; however, almost all of them combine it with their special-purpose proprietary extensions. A tool to query data from RDBMS, SQL also processes streams and handles structured data.
Developed by Apple as an alternative to Objective-C, Swift seems to eliminate the need for its predecessor. Sometimes called as “Objective-C without the C,” it operates under a principle of up-to-date programming concepts and has a simple syntax. Software for macOS, iOS, Linux and other native operative systems for Apple is the area on which Swift focuses.
|Read also: Objective-C vs. Swift: What’s the Difference?|
Created in 1959, COBOL is one of the oldest existing programming languages. With a focus on data processing, in its glory days, COBOL (common business-oriented language) enabled administrative systems used by banking and finance and by government.
Today, although it still powers business-critical applications for various financial institutions and helps handle millions of transactions every day, the language is slowly falling into disuse. The problem is that it lacks new talent and proper knowledge transfer, while the migration of workloads from COBOL to a modern language is risky and presents severe difficulties.
A procedural programming language, Pascal was named after the French scientist Blaise Pascal. It was created to be efficient and small, encouraging structured programming.
The Pascal language reached its peak popularity in the 1970s when the minicomputer market was on the rise and it was widely used for developing business applications. Later on, many universities based their programming educational courses on Pascal, and it’s still taught in many countries as the gold standard of programming.
Follow Your Goals
As it follows from the list, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. That is why we recommend going by a business goal that software is expected to support in the first place. Once you get a clear idea of a solution you need to develop, you can pick languages that can help you achieve it. Then, you can dig deeper and select the one that meets all your considerations — technological, economic, legal and security.
Our team has extensive expertise in software development using the languages listed above. We will be happy to answer all of your questions about choosing the solution that perfectly meets your specific business requirements.