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Top 3 programming language to learn in 2020

If you are starting your programming career in 2020 or if you want to learn your first or second programming language, then it is wise to learn one of the mainstream and established programming languages. Here I will list programming languages based on the following criteria:

  • Already mainstream and firmly established in the Software Development industry.
  • Top-ranked in the renowned programming languages ranking websites.
  • Popularity is increasing or stable and not sharply decreasing.
  • They have a large set of libraries, frameworks, tooling support, and have a large community.
  • They are demanding in the job market with a decent salary.

I will give a brief overview of the programming languages along with historical context, key features, and primary use cases.

1. Python

When Guido van Rossum developed Python in the 1990s as his side project, nobody has envisioned that it would be the most popular programming language one day. Considering all well-recognized rankings and industry trends, I put Python as the number one programming language overall.

Python has not experienced a meteoric rise in popularity like Java or C/C++. Also, Python is not a disruptive programming language. But from the very beginning, Python has focused on developer experience and tried to lower the barrier to programming so that school kids can also write production-grade code.

In 2008, Python went through a massive overhaul and improvement with the cost of introducing significant breaking changes by introducing Python 3.

Today, Python is omnipresent and used in many areas of software development, with no sign of slowing down.

5 Key Features:

  • The USP of Python is its language design. It is highly productive, elegant, simple, yet powerful. Python has set the gold standard in terms of developer productivity and simplicity.
  • Python has first-class integration with C/C++ and can easily offload the CPU heavy tasks to C/C++. As a result, Python dominates the Machine Learning/Deep Learning/Data Science landscape.
  • Python has a very active community and support. You can always find enough Python libraries and frameworks, no matter whether you are working on Enterprise Applications, Data Science, or Artificial Intelligence.
  • With its small and nimble runtime, Python is intensively used in Serverless Computing and Cloud Computing.
  • Python is in the industry for 30 years and has massive adoption both in industry and academia. Python has excellent tooling support.

Main Use Cases:

  • Data Science
  • Data Analytics
  • Artificial Intelligence, Deep Learning
  • Enterprise Application
  • Web Development

2. JavaScript

During the first browser war, Netscape had assigned Brendan Eich to develop a new programming language for its Browser. Brendan Eich had developed the initial prototype in only ten days, and the rest is historyJavaScript was often ridiculed because of its poor language design and lack of features.

Over the years, JavaScript has evolved into a multi-paradigm, high-level, dynamic programming language. The first significant breakthrough of JavaScript came in 2009 when Ryan Dahl has released cross-platform JavaScript runtime Node.js and enable JavaScript to run on Server Side.

The other enormous breakthrough of JavaScript came around 2010 when Google has released a JavaScript-based Web development framework AngularJS.

Today, JavaScript is one of the most widely used programming languages in the world and runs on virtually everywhere: Browsers, Servers, Mobile Devices, Cloud, Containers, Micro-controllers.

5 Key Features:

  • JavaScript is the undisputed king in Browser programming. Today, Web development is dominated mainly by JavaScript-based SPA frameworks like React, Vue.js, Angular.
  • Thanks to Node.js, JavaScript offers event-driven programming, which is especially suitable for I/O heavy tasks. Today, JavaScript and Node.js run on almost all Platforms, including Servers and Mobile devices.
  • JavaScript has gone through massive modernization and overhaul in the last several years, especially in 2015, 2016, and later. The major JavaScript releases like ES5, ES6 has added many modern features, and JavaScript of today is entirely different from JavaScript of the last decade.
  • JavaScript has one of the most active and vibrant communities out that. Every day, 500 npm packages are released, which only shows how active the community is.
  • Thanks to the smaller size and shorter start-up time of the JavaScript engine, it is widely used and the number one language of choice in Serverless computing.

Main Use Cases:

  • Web Development
  • Backend Development
  • Mobile App Development
  • Serverless Computing
  • Browser Game development


3. Java

Java is one of the most disruptive programming languages to date. Back in the ’90s, business applications were mainly developed using C++, which was quite complicated and platform dependent. James Gosling and his team in Sun lowered the barrier to develop business applications by offering a much simpler, object-oriented, interpreted programming language that also supports Multi-threading programming.

Java has achieved Platform independence by developing Java Virtual Machine (JVM), which abstracted the low-level Operating System from developers and gave the first “Write Once, Run anywhere” programming language. Also, JVM offered generation garbage collection, which manages the Object life cycle.

In recent years, Java has lost some of its markets to highly developer-friendly modern languages and the rise of other languages, especially Python, JavaScript. Also, JVM is not quite Cloud friendly because of its bulky size. Oracle has recently introduced hefty licensing fees for JDK, which will dent Java’s popularity further.

Fortunately, Java is working on its shortcomings and trying to make Java fit for Cloud via the GraalVM initiative. Also, in OpenJDK, there is a free alternative to the proprietary Oracle JDK.

Java is still the number one programming language for enterprises.

5 Key Features:

  • The USP of Java is it offers a powerful, feature-rich, multi-paradigm programming language with a moderate learning curve and high developer productivity.
  • Java is strictly backward compatible, which is a crucial requirement for business applications. Java has never introduced a major breaking change like Python or Scala. As a result, it is still the number one choice for enterprises.
  • Java’s runtime JVM is a masterpiece of Software Engineering and one of the best virtual machines in the industry. With 25 years of innovation and engineering craftsmanship, JVM offers high performance and feature set to Java. Also, JVM provides some advanced Garbage Collection to Java.
  • Because of its long time dominance in the industry, Java offers a massive ecosystem of libraries, frameworks, and tooling support.
  • Another key feature of Java is that it is evolving and reinventing itself all the time. Java has now adopted six months release cycle and working hard to be Cloud friendly through its GraalVM initiative.

Main Use Cases:

  • Server-Side programming
  • App development
  • Web Development
  • Gaming
  • Software for Windows Platform