Top 10 Programming Languages for 2020

As the world of programming continues to evolve, more languages are coming to the forefront for developers who work in different environments. Platform-specific programming languages like Kotlin and Swift are gaining in popularity, while mainstays like JavaScript and C still have their fans among long-time developers.

Let's look at what makes our top 10 programming languages of 2020 worth considering, and the benefits and drawbacks of using each.

Evaluation of the Top Programming Languages: Pros vs. Cons

As technology has evolved - and the application of programming languages has become more diverse - there are multiple options for programmers to consider as they go about working on projects.

Ten languages stand out from this pack, however. Let's take a look at these one-by-one. The list order doesn't reflect our recommendations of their use:

  1. Python
  2. JavaScript
  3. C++
  4. PHP
  5. Swift
  6. Rust
  7. Kotlin
  8. Go
  9. R
  10. Ruby

Python

What is Python used for?

Python is the Swiss Army knife of programming languages. Its ease of use allows it not to be restricted just to web development. All types of people use Python daily, including back end developers, data scientists, and software developers. It is especially popular with startups and companies in the fintech and financial industries.

What are the benefits of using Python?

Python is famous for code that is easy to read and maintain. Python is structured to use English rather than punctuations, making for an intuitive and logical experience for programmers.

It is easy to use but also can tackle large and complex applications. Because it supports several different types of programming paradigms, it is highly efficient to adopt across a variety of project types.

What are the drawbacks of using Python?

Python is slower when compared to other established languages like Java and C/C++. This lack of speed is due to the time it takes to compile code line-by-line due to how Python is structured.

It also isn't "legacy" business friendly as it doesn't tend to play as well with older databases or vast data structures built up over time by companies with multiple layers.

JavaScript

What is JavaScript used for?

JavaScript is an object-oriented language used by programmers to make websites easier to navigate and more attractive. This primary purpose isn't its only purpose, however.

JavaScript is also easy to use and highly effective when creating web applications, presentations, server applications, and even smartwatch and mobile apps.

What are the benefits of using JavaScript?

JavaScript is a great language to learn for newer developers. It's straightforward in comparison to other similar languages, so the learning curve isn't very steep.

It's easy to visualize completed work because JavaScript is so interactive. You can quickly see the results of the work you have put in. Due to its general popularity, learning JavaScript is an excellent idea from a career-building perspective. It's a language that never seems to go out of style.

What are the drawbacks of using JavaScript?

JavaScript code processes on the end user's computer. This process can occasionally open up the end user's computer to malicious attacks.

Different types of browsers can also interpret the language very differently. This interpretation can cause some usability issues. As more browsers like Brave enter the market to compete with the mainstays like Chrome and Safari, this issue could become amplified.

C++

What is C++ used for?

C++ is probably best known as a gaming development language. One of the most widely-used game development platforms, Unreal Engine, was built on a backbone of C++. It also is the core of many of Adobe's well-known applications, including Premier, Photoshop, and Illustrator.

Banking, medical, and engineering applications are also commonly built with C++.

What are the benefits of using C++?

C++ is very portable, meaning it's easy to use on different types of platforms and operating systems. It's an object-oriented language which allows for problems we face day-to-day to be solved by its use.

It's also compatible with any instances of C that you are running. If the original C program was well-written and didn't have many errors, it will be compatible with C++.

What are the drawbacks of using C++?

There are inherent security concerns in using C++ that have to do with the way it uses certain coding conventions. Using C++ to develop complex programs intended for multiple applications can also be challenging, leading to errors and issues.

Because of the structure of the language, it can also be difficult to debug as you start to encounter errors.

PHP

What is PHP used for?

Hypertext Processor (PHP) is a scripting language used to develop web applications. PHP is a server-side language. The code is executed on a server before the person browsing the web sees the webpage. PHP differs from Hyper-Text Markup Language in that HTML is a client-side language, but PHP can also be embedded in HTML to streamline an application.

What are the benefits of using PHP?

PHP is a very flexible language with multiple ways to get the same task done. It's a very popular language in that respect. There's a low barrier to entry, and it's a great "starter" language for anyone looking to get into web development. PHP is useful for a wide variety of tasks.

It comes down to your personal preferences in how you approach these tasks. PHP can also run on various platforms without any issues. There is a wealth of documentation online, on sites like PHP.net, that help PHP programmers improve and build their skill sets.

What are the drawbacks of using PHP?

Some of the reusable PHP code can also lack in quality. This quality concern is due to the same barrier of entry, which makes PHP easy to use.

The original design of PHP also included some core elements which don't translate well to modern programming. Given this, adopting new best practices for how to use the language can be time-consuming in specific scenarios.

Swift

What is Swift used for?

Apple-designed Swift is used for application development across its many platforms, including iOS, macOS, watchOS, and others. Swift is the core framework for the development of any application for Apple products.

What are the benefits of using Swift?

Many people compare Swift and Objective-C due to their similarities. Swift is a faster language than Objective-C. This speed difference is due to the fact Swift removed limitations of C. C now has limitations in the modern programming age, which were not predictable.

Swift code is also faster and easier to learn than Objective-C code. Overall there's less code needed for the same functions you could create using Objective-C. Because it is more compact, it also tends to be less error prone.

What are the drawbacks of using Swift?

Swift is still a relatively young language as programming languages go. Because it is newer, there are a limited number of people able to work with the language fluently, and therefore these individuals come at a high cost.

Swift isn't updated often, so there can be some issues with how it operates at times. Earlier versions of the iOS are not compatible with several of its features as well.

Rust

What is Rust used for?

The Mozilla Foundation has been working on Rust for several years as the foundation of their popular Firefox browser and Thunderbird email application.

Rust is open-source and used for a wide variety of applications, including:

* Game engines

* Software development

* Operating systems, and

* Browser development

What are the benefits of using Rust?

Rust is very popular in the developer community because it helps to solve many issues programmers have had with legacy programming languages.

Rust is a static typing rather than dynamic typing language. This structure simplifies the daily work of programmers and makes the code easier to maintain over the long-haul. Modern programmers are now seeing Rust as a viable alternative to older object-oriented languages like C and C++.

What are the drawbacks of using Rust?

One of the major complaints about Rust is that code compiling errors are common. Error messages are clear, though, so fixes are usually possible without too much of a heavy lift.

Because Rust is a newer language, some of the code libraries that are a staple of older languages aren't yet as developed.

Kotlin

What is Kotlin used for?

Programmers use Kotlin to develop applications and software for Android platforms and devices, and the Java Virtual Machine (JVM).

What are the benefits of using Kotlin?

Kotlin is a more simplified version of Java, but also a more expressive version of Java. It is like Swift in many ways, especially in the end goal of being easy-to-learn and compact, but also highly functional.

Like C and C++, Kotlin is object-oriented at its core, but also offers enough support for functional programming to make it dynamic and open to use for a variety of projects. It's also less buggy than older versions of Java, causing fewer headaches when writing code.

Kotlin is a relatively new language, so it will only improve over time. It's a great tool to add to the toolkit as a developer.

What are the drawbacks of using Kotlin?

While Kotlin is a reliable replacement for Java, it's not easy to learn so that that transition won't happen quickly. Individual and institutional programmers will need extensive training to use the language effectively.

Because of this steep learning curve, there are a limited number of Kotlin programmers available. Similar to Swift, these programmers can come at a high cost to your organization.

Although Kotlin is more modern than Java, Java is still the best option for clean builds that won't need overhauling down the road.

Go

What is Go used for?

Go was built by three of Google's founders as a way to improve on other popular languages of the late 2000s, namely C. It's an open-source language that's well-known for fostering collaboration between users and a high level of efficiency.

Programmers use Go to develop cloud services, on-demand platforms, and backend infrastructure for major news outlets and publishing platforms.

What are the benefits of using Go?

Go is easy to learn and implement and doesn't require a large tech stack to be effective. Even if you haven't coded with Go previously, but have some familiarity with C or something similar, you can pick up on the language relatively quickly.

Go is also known to be very fast. Compiling times for code are much quicker than for languages with similar structures.

Unlike some of the languages mentioned previously, there's no shortage of Go programmers, so finding one for your next project is easy.

What are the drawbacks of using Go?

Go's poor library support is a common criticism. Extra code is often needed to parse data from applications, and third-party libraries can also come into play.

Go's community of developers is also known to be relatively insular and not open to potential improvements to the language. These criticisms rarely outweigh Go's ease of use and interoperability, however.

R

What is R used for?

Statisticians and data miners who work with large volumes of data that need organization and analysis most commonly use R. R helps statisticians make inferences from data and use that data to solve problems.

Programmers that work on machine learning problems and improvements also use R.

What are the benefits of using R?

If you're looking to wrangle and corral large amounts of data into more useable formats, R is the best option available. It's compatibility with other languages like Java, Python, C and C++ make it a favorite in the machine learning and data programming communities.

R is a continually evolving language. Given it's at the forefront of modern technologies like AI and machine learning, improvements to the language are consistent and constant.

What are the drawbacks of using R?

The capability to create quality graphics using R isn't likely. This inability is due to R evolving from a previous legacy language called S.

It's known to be a slow language with a very steep learning curve. The time it takes to learn R and use it with confidence is longer than the majority of other languages in our list.

Support for issues using R can be hard to find. There isn't a dedicated support structure for R, but the community of users can be helpful for some problems.

Ruby

What is Ruby used for?

Programmers primarily use Ruby to build all types of web applications, but it is also useful in data analysis projects and the development of proofs of concept.

Several high-profile applications, including the streaming platform Hulu, GoodReads, and GitHub, sit on a backbone of Ruby code.

What are the benefits of using Ruby?

Ruby's pragmatic approach, excellent access to libraries, and relative simplicity make it popular in the programming community.

There's a massive community of Ruby developers around the world who are not just adherents to using the language, but evangelists. This passion for using Ruby makes it easy to find a solution to any problems you have using the language to code applications.

Ruby is a highly productive, fast language at its core.

What are the drawbacks of using Ruby?

Ruby's speed is often a criticism, especially when compared with languages of similar capability, like Go.

Although there is a large community of programmers to turn to for support, there isn't much formal documentation on using Ruby. This lack of documentation can make solving more technical and complex code problems a little more complicated.

No programming language is perfect. Each has unique factors that make it imperfect. That said, these ten languages are popular for a reason. They're sturdy and dynamic for a variety of purposes and help to create technologies and infrastructure we couldn't have even imagined 20 years ago.

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