Let’s talk about different programming languages and what they are used for! If you’re new to the world of programming and are looking for the first language to learn, use this post in conjunction with my other one: with recommendations on how to select that first language.
Before we get to it, let’s discuss some differences in programming languages: they can range from high-level to low level (low meaning syntax friendlier for the machines and high meaning friendlier for humans).
There are also different programming paradigms – or the types of logic that are being used. The most popular categories that you will hear about are object-oriented programming and functional programming. There isn’t a better one or a worse one – and you will find people who are fans of one or the other – or people who use both and like both. They’re simply different types of logic!
I won’t go into too much detail there because this video isn’t about that (and there are plenty of resources that will explain this concept to you), but functional is the linear mathematical logic that we are used to in school and object-oriented groups things in objects that can later be altered.
It’s good to keep in mind the different logic types when starting a different language, so I’ll mention the logic type in ever language description. Let’s get to it!
Probably one of the easiest languages out there to start with for beginners because of how user-friendly its syntax is, how widely it’s used and what a big community it has around it. It’s my favourite programming language, and I have a video about it with a neat breakdown into details.
Python is a high-level, object-oriented language and can be used for data mining and visualisation, machine learning, web applications, game development and honestly anything else you can think of — yes, it’s that versatile!
Some of the major organizations and companies that use Python are Google, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, DropBox, NASA.
Java is one of the most popular programming languages in the world right now! It isn’t as beginner-friendly as Python, as it was designed to feel similar to C++ but simpler to use.
Java is also a high-level, object-oriented language. One of its main draws is that it’s very powerful and secure and so all of the banking application development happens in Java only. It’s perfect for someone looking to work in Android development, Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, or game/desktop app development.
A lot of people, including my fellow blonde techie YouTuber Blondiebytes, recommend learning this language as your first programming language because it reveals a lot of things that are behind the scenes in other languages!
Major organizations that use Java are Airbnb, Uber, eBay, Pinterest, Groupon, Spotify, Pandora.
Ruby is an object-oriented, high-level programming language. It’s also very beginner-friendly and you can start building things fairly quickly with the framework called Rails (this is where the expression Ruby on Rails comes from). It’s used for web app development, robotics, networking, system administration and security. It is great for simulations and is even used for those by NASA!
Some of the major organizations that use it are Github, Scribd, Groupon, NASA Langley Research Center, Motorola, Google (SketchUp). Basecamp, Amazon, Twitter and Groupon were all created using Ruby on Rails.
Ruby’s founder, Yukihiro Matsumoto, intended it to be “simple in appearance, but it is very complex inside, just like our human body.”
Funnily enough, this was the language that I’ve initially started with!
C may be older than you: it was released in 1972! So at the date of writing this, it’s 47 years old. It is probably one of the most widely-used languages in tech right now.
It is a structure-oriented, middle-level programming language mostly used to develop low-level applications – meaning that it’s widely used for developing device drivers.
It is used to develop systems applications that are integrated into operating systems such as Windows, UNIX and Linux, as well as embedded software. Systems Programming, Artificial Intelligence, Industrial Automation, Computer Graphics, Space Research, Image Processing and Game Programming.
Major organizations that use C are Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, Cisco, Raytheon.
C# is a multi-paradigm programming language, which means it supports multiple programming paradigms or types of logic.
It was developed in the 2000s by Microsoft within its .NET initiative – and was based on C, C++ and Java languages. As a result, it’s very similar to those languages and is widely used for developing Windows desktop applications and games. It can be used for almost anything though, including gaming, web applications and is becoming increasingly popular for mobile development too.
It is widely used in IT, Engineering, Design, Professional Services, Management and Quality Control.
Major organizations that use C# are Microsoft, Intel, Hewlett Packard.
C++ is an object-oriented, middle-level programming language. It was created to be an extension of the C programming language that provides a higher-level of abstraction but is still powerful and efficient.
It’s a general-purpose programming language that is used a lot to work with System/Application Software, Drivers, Client-Server Applications and Embedded Firmware.
Major companies that use C++ are Google, Mozilla, Winamp, Adobe, Amazon, Lockheed Martin.
Fun fact: the main cafe at the Google office in London where I worked was called C++! ☕
PHP is a multi-paradigm programming language, designed for creating dynamic web pages that effectively work with databases. It is a general-purpose language and is widely used for Web Application Development, Server-Side Scripting, Command Line Scripting.
Fun fact is that PHP wasn’t intentionally created as a programming language – it’s founder, Rasmus Lerdorf, initially wrote several programs in C, that were supposed to help him maintain his personal homepage. These programs worked with webforms and databases and could be used to build simple, dynamic web applications. He wasn’t trying to design a programming language (in fact he didn’t know how to), but he kept on adding functionality to the program and ended up with one!
The newest versions of PHP have been rewritten, so you can’t see the same inconsistency that existed in the first organic version, but still, that’s pretty fun!
Major organizations that use PHP are Facebook, Yahoo, CyberCoders, NextGen.
Swift is Apple’s general-purpose, multi-paradigm programming language for iOS and OS X apps. It was created to preserve the main concepts of Objective-C (the other programming language you can use for iOS development), but to also catch bugs in a more eloquent way.
If you’re building a native app for an iPhone, Swift will most likely be your language of choice!
Major companies that use Swift are Apple, Getty Images, Slack, Dow Jones, Playlist Media.
Go (or Golang) was developed by Google in 2017 to improve programming productivity. It was designed to have the following features:
- Static typing and run-time efficiency (like C++)
- High-performance networking and multiprocessing
It’s a general-purpose, multi-paradigm programming language. It’s very concise, simple and safe (which means that you might have fewer bugs in it – because it’s simpler in terms of syntax).
Go is very new and hasn’t found its niche necessarily, but since it was designed to help solve “Google-sized” problems, it is great for complex problems. So if the idea of scaling software and systems excites you, it might be a great one to learn!
Major organizations that use Go are (obviously) Google, Uber, Basecamp, Medium, Intel and BBC.
I hope this was helpful and that you now have a clearer idea about which language you’re going to get started with! And, if you’re a seasoned programmer, please let me know if you have anything else to add to this list!
- 14 Different Programming Languages and Their Uses Explained
- Applications of Java
- What Big Companies Still Code in Java: Do Major Corporations Still Use Java?
- Functional Programming vs OOP
- Golang: A General Purpose Programming Language Made for the Future