Behind every amazing computer and mobile application you use is a tool used to write a set of instructions that the application should follow upon specific user action. This tool is commonly referred to as a programming language.
Over time, the use cases for digital technologies have increased and the approach to creating applications for these various uses has also evolved. It is not uncommon to find development teams relying on an assortment of programming languages to build an application.
There are numerous factors influencing the choice of programming language for different developers, some being internal and others being external. Internal factors have more to do with the production side, how a developer likes to work, and the technical intricacies involved in achieving integrity for various software features.
On the other hand, external factors have more to do with consumer behaviour, broader market trends and other concerns like compliance with regulatory standards. Before we get into the direction programming languages may take in the future, let’s look at where we are today, and how we got there:
The journey to today’s programming languages
The Android platform was also in major contention for the position of number one smartphone operating system and in 2011, Kotlin, a programming language for making Android applications was born.
Around the middle of the decade, Python continued to prove itself as one of the more user-friendly languages for writing code, partly evidenced by the community development momentum surrounding it. This open-source programming language would go on to take the number three spot from PHP in 2015.
A growing demand for robust data mining and analysis tools also propelled R, a programming language for statistical computing into the top ten. By this point, Apple’s operations were taking up even more market share and its prevailing programming language, Objective-C was joined by a new one called Swift in 2014.
What could the programming language space look like going forward
Python has consistently gained more traction in fields such as artificial intelligence, data science and financial services. It has even spilled over into social media sites, serving as the programming foundation for Pinterest and Instagram.
However, the growing adoption of technologies like cloud computing, machine learning (ML), and the use of big data in business and the public sector coupled with the shortfalls in some of the conventional programming languages could boost the use of other languages.
For example, the Google-favored Go delivers most of the functionality present in C and C++ minus the intense learning demands that come with difficult syntax. Go is well-tailored to systems programming needs and with languages like Java not being ideal for cloud applications, it could go on to be the preferred choice for newer coders seeking easier building of web servers, ML packages and data pipelines.
Another programming language that could go on to shine is Scala. Scala combines some of Java’s best features like the Object-Oriented structure and ultra-fast runtime environment to allow for concurrent programming. And while it is strongly-typed and therefore harder for beginners, it offers extensive customization of data types, which can reduce engineers’ worries about bugs at runtime.
We could also see increased usage of Ruby, a user-friendly scripting language that has gained traction in web development in recent times. It serves as the basis for the widely used Ruby on Rails web application framework, which has enabled developers to build applications at a pace that is up to 40% faster than that of professionals using other languages.
When you add that to the fact that it has been used by reputable firms like Twitter, Shopify, AirBnB and Bloomberg, and has a large and active online community that’s always ready to help, you can see why it is ideal for Agile software development.
Some other programming languages that may be a big part of the future include Elm, a functional programming language that eliminates some of the constraints associated with CSS and HTML when creating client-side interfaces.
We should also keep an eye on programming languages like Rust, which emphasizes speed and security, limiting malfunctions that arise from poorly managed memory access. If that’s not convincing enough, remember that Rust has been the most loved programming language for five consecutive years according to Stack Overflow’s 2020 Developer Survey, with 86.1% of Rust developers wanting to use it more.
Future trends in programming languages won’t always be about adoption of some new hot thing. Older languages like SQL could remain popular as their reliability and versatility make them suitable for traditional databases, but also favorable for newer big data applications.
All-in-all, the core attributes of a language, along with the number of potential customers demanding for specific features and functionality are some of the major factors that will continue to drive programming language trends.