Programming languages are the building blocks upon which our digital infrastructure is built. Whether you’re a developer or simply work in a tech-related industry, it’s vital to understand which languages are big now, or are set for rapid growth.
For the savvy developer or wannabe developer, expanding your programming skills is a sure-fire investment in your future. But since there’s so many languages around, it can be hard to figure out which is worth spending the time on. You’ll probably want to consider format, application, legacy, ease of use and ease of learning – amongst other things.
Below is a list of languages you might want to consider. We’ve split them into tiers:
Tier 1 | The mainstream languages. If you want a career as a developer, you’ll need to learn at least one of these.
One of the most well-established programming languages, Java is used by 9 million developers worldwide. Java’s compatibility ensures its dominance –able to run on any hardware and operating system through the Java Virtual Machine. Java forms the basis of all Android apps and is used by 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies as a server-side language for backend development.
Python is a general-purpose language, used for web development and as a support language for developers. It’s application in machine learning and data mining is driving the growing popularity of Python, making it a worthwhile investment.
Developed by Microsoft to run on their .NET platform, C# is a simple, general-purpose object orientated language that aims to make development simpler and faster than previous Microsoft languages. C# is widely used in video games development, so it’s a smart choice for aspiring games developers.
PHP is a server-side scripting language used largely for web applications, typically to enhance functions too complex for HTML, or to link with MySQL databases. PHP is growing in popularity (today more than 80% of websites use PHP) due to its relevance and ease of use.
Ruby is a reflective, dynamic general-purpose programming and scripting language, which supports multiple paradigms including functional, object orientated and imperative. Ruby has gained popularity due to its accessible and usable web framework, Rails.
Perl is an open-source, scripting language similar in syntax to C/ C++/C#, but in general easier to learn than the more structured ‘C’ languages. Although there’s some evidence of a decline in the user basis, Perl continues to be popular for system and network administrators as a glue language.
Tier 2 | Proven languages that are used across a variety of industries and have built an online following, but haven’t yet broken into the mainstream yet
Designed by statisticians and scientists, R is an open-source language designed for complex statistical analytics, accessible to those without programming skills. R’s growth is reflective of the importance of big data to business today.
Swift was invented by Apple in 2014 for iOS and OS X developers, geared towards app creation. Despite being relatively young, it’s gained huge traction to threaten more established languages, with big names like Yahoo and Linked In using it.
Invented by Google in 2009, Go hasn’t quite reached the population of Swift, but it’s made impressive traction nevertheless, counting SoundCloud, Facebook and UK Government’s official websites among its userbase. Go does a similar job to C++ or Java, but is faster and easier to learn.
Tier 3 | Emerging languages. Beginning to gain an online following and an increase in use cases
Introduced in 2012, Elixir is a general-purpose functional language design for application building. Its syntax is comparable to the popular Ruby-on-Rails framework, but unlike Rails, has focused on high-availability, low-latency systems – much to the delight of programmers.
Also taking inspiration from the Ruby ecosystem, Crystal has won itself the motto “Fast as C, slick as Ruby”, as it aims to combine superior syntax with pure horsepower. It’s a general-purpose, statically typed fully object orientated programming language with advanced type inference.
Rust is flying high, having recently been voted StackOverflow’s ‘Most loved’ language for the third year running. It’s a systems programming language, combining C-like efficiency with functional language features like strong static typing and type interface.
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