User Lucy Hill
Lucy Hill
Level 31

How Many Programming Languages Are There? Why Some of Them Are Bound to Succeed, and Others Are Stillborn

Published in the Random group
We are surrounded by hundreds of programming languages, but naturally, no one can learn all of them. And what for? There is no need, since knowing just one or a couple of mainstream programming languages can open up many opportunities behind you and help you build a successful career in the IT industry. How Many Programming Languages Are There? Why Some of Them Are Bound to Succeed, and Others Are Stillborn - 1What language to choose? You can come to this answer by breaking it down into three:
  1. Why do you want to learn to code?
  2. What do you want to do as a programmer?
  3. What would you like to create with your skills?
For example, learning languages like Objective-C, Swift will let you work on iOS projects. Whilst Java and Kotlin will be wise choices for Android development. If you're a newbie who is just interested in learning how to think like a developer and getting accustomed to basic programming logic, you may choose Python or JavaScript as they are relatively easy to learn yet can provide a solid foundation in programming syntax. Once you've answered the questions mentioned above, you can do your research to make the right career-boosting decision. Or, you can keep on discovering this brief research that covers different programming languages and reveals why some of them have the staying power while others disappear without leaving a trace.

Ocean of Programming Languages

Before delving deeper into details, let's make it clear what is a programming language? It's a formal language, which programmers use to "communicate" with computers. Wikipedia claims there are more than 700 programming languages out there. Other sources say that the actual number is close to 9000. Like spoken languages, programming languages can be subdivided depending on their prevalence and usage — building software, controlling automated factory machines, designing video games, creating mobile apps, and many more.

Main Classifications Explained

High-level programming languages

High-level languages are pretty simple to read and write. They use syntax similar to the English language and are closer to human language than others. Hence, they are easier to understand. Among the most popular high-level languages, we can highlight C, C++, Python, and of course, Java. As for the scope of application, high-level languages are best for developing web, PC, and mobile apps.

Low-level programming languages

Low-level languages are intended mainly for writing programs specifically for the architecture and hardware of a computer. We can subdivide low-level languages into the following categories: machine languages and assembly languages (both of them can be used to develop OS and device drivers).

Markup programming languages

The significant difference between a common coding language like Java and a markup programming language is that the latter involves a particular system for annotating a document in a way syntactically distinguishable from the text. Also, markup languages are readable for both humans and machines, unlike many other programming languages. A bright example is HTML that uses word tags to define different elements of a webpage. However, many programmers do not consider it a programming language in common sense as it doesn't involve writing a code.

Query programming languages

These languages retrieve data from different databases and information systems by sending queries. According to the latest reports by IT Skills, SQL is one of the most well-known query languages. It also happened to be the second most popular programming language employers use. Not without reason. It's not only easy to use, but it also boasts query accuracy and mass data collection.

Esoteric programming languages

Some coding languages are made entirely for fun or to challenge the norms of existing language design. They all can be referred to as esoteric languages as they have no purpose and serve mainly for entertainment.

Which Programming Languages Are Currently in Use?

All that just being said, you don't have much of a choice when it comes to programming languages because not all of them are still used. In reality, most languages from the huge Wikipedia list have already become antiquated. Why? Many programming languages are replaced over time due to rapid technological changes; others are made exceptionally for a singular purpose. And, it's not hard to pick the Top-10 "alive" leaders. According to the TIOBE Programming Community index, some of the top programming languages include:
  • C
  • Java
  • Python
  • C++
  • C#
  • Visual Basic
  • JavaScript
  • PHP
  • SQL
  • Assembly language
  • R
  • Groovy
Also, there is a separate group of non-general-purpose languages:
  • CSS
  • HTML
  • MATLAB
  • R
  • Shell(s)
  • SQL
  • XML
  • Verilog
  • VHDL

Let's Talk About Leaders

It's worth glancing at the most popular languages to figure out why they remain so popular year after year.

C

Starting off with one of the oldest and most well-established programming languages used today, we'd like to note that C is a highly influential language. First released in 1972, its impact can be seen in many other popular languages like C#, C++, and Java. Despite its age, it's a surprisingly complex language that still has uses in many different areas. Besides creating system apps, C can also help you write games, graphics, and apps that call for lots of calculations. What helped C to become popular? In the early days, computers were very slow and, naturally, programmers' performance too. The C programming language solved many problems that annoyed developers and allowed them to write code faster.

Python

Phyton is also a language from the previous era. Launched in 1992, it remains extra popular today for many reasons. Mainly, its success lies in the fact that Phyton is an easy object-oriented, high-level programming language that is simple to write and understand. Plus, it's good for general use (web apps, for example) and for AI and machine learning. Accordingly, there are plenty of Python job offerings available too.

Java

As far as easy-to-learn programming languages are concerned, Java is definitely up there with the best of them. Actually, if you're just starting out your coding path and want fast development, there are a few better places to start. Java is a versatile, general-purpose language that is widely used for business software, web apps, mobile apps and boasts the "write once, run anywhere" concept. That means once you write a code in Java, it can run on just about any device with the Java platform.

JavaScript

Although some fellow learners may think that JavaScript is a subdivision of Java, it isn't directly related to Java. Yet, it uses a Java-like syntax (hence, the name). If you're interested primarily in web browser coding, this language may be a perfect match for you. JavaScript is handy for creating interactive and responsive web pages. Like its peers, this language was created in the early days of the Internet in 1995.

PHP

Much like JavaScript, PHP is intended for web development. However, whereas JavaScript is more of a client-side scripting language, PHP is a server-side one, i.e., it's mostly for website development.

New-Era Languages

What about new languages? Of course, they constantly appear, but the inertness of the industry is enormous, and the radical changes happen rarely. So not surprisingly, the leaders mentioned above hold their positions stably, and things don't seem to change anytime soon. The switch of the top programming languages often happens through the change of the platform itself, not through the sudden loss of "faith." From this, we can conclude that if you're looking for a new language, just wait for the change of the platform. That just being said, there are still some relatively new and on-trend languages like Kotlin, Swift, and Go that have managed to gain their auditory. For example, Kotlin was created in 2010 and gracefully joined the list of the most beloved programming languages since it has a lot of cool things to offer to its users. Also called as Java alternative, Kotlin is a general-purpose, open-source, "pragmatic" language that deftly combines functional and object-oriented programming features. It supports higher-order functions, inline functions, anonymous functions, lambdas, closures, tail recursion, and generics, whereas focused on safety, interoperability, clarity, and tooling support. Actually, Kotlin looks like a more concise and streamlined version of Java. So why still it hasn't beaten Java?

Here's The Secret of Popularity and Vitality

Why some languages are popular depends on some key factors:
  • Being a default language for popular ecosystems;
  • Having vast standard libraries and/or targeting a popular VM;
  • Having excellent documentation, guidance for newbies, tools, and so on;
  • Fostering a welcoming community;
  • Providing technical innovations that may lead to higher productivity and more maintainable code.
What else? Marketing definitely helps. Time plays a huge role too. No language has become famous overnight, and as we see, success really takes years. But if you're looking to start a career in tech and don't know what to choose, stick to something popular. Java is a perfect option in all regards, as it matches all criteria mentioned above. What's more, there are tons of sources to learn Java profoundly, and without a doubt, CodeGym is among the most effective tools to learn Java coding through practice.

Bonus: The Most Bizarre Programming Languages Detected

Not all languages are created to solve problems. Some of them are pretty odd, and here is the bonus list of the weirdest languages created by mankind.

Piet

If you like fine art, Piet will definitely catch your fancy. Inspired by the artist Piet Mondrian, this programming language converts programs into abstract geometric paintings consisting of 20 different colors. It's an arty, esoteric programming language. How Many Programming Languages Are There? Why Some of Them Are Bound to Succeed, and Others Are Stillborn - 2

"Hello world" in the Piet programming language.

Whitespace

Whitespace is another funny programming language that does exactly what it sounds - creates programs based on... whitespace. Dissimilar to most popular languages, here, only tabs, spaces, and newlines are considered syntax.

Shakespeare

As the name suggests, it's a very poetic language that uses the code that looks like a Shakespeare play. The programming language includes characters, titles, and even scenes, acts, enter, and exit directives to sound like Shakespeare's plays.

LOLCODE

LOLCODE is a quirky esoteric language that uses LOLCats syntax to run the programs.

Rockstar

What about calling yourself a rockstar programmer? Sounds tempting, agree. This joke language allows you to create computer programs that are also song lyrics.

Brainf*ck

This daring language is made to play with your mind. Actually, it is rather difficult to program in, and it's not intended for practical use but for challenging programmers worldwide. As you see, the programming world can be pretty fun. So, join it now to enjoy ASAP! How Many Programming Languages Are There? Why Some of Them Are Bound to Succeed, and Others Are Stillborn - 3
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Chrisantus Makokha Level 31, Nairobi, Kenya
22 December 2021
Interesting. I wouldn't mind looking at Brainf*ck later just to see if it will f*ck my brain coz Java has already done that. Nice article Lucy.
21 December 2021
Interesante articulo con orientación sobre que es lo que quieres aprender y en que sitio te quieres mover.