Choosing the right programming language for software development is crucial for your system's long-term success. With so many different options available, it can be challenging to determine which languages will be the most valuable and effective in the coming years. It can be daunting to determine whether your great uncle’s opinion on COBOL is still relevant or if you should use Svelte for your next customer web application since that's where all the rage is.
We aim to provide you with more knowledge of these languages and outline which we would choose if we started a project for you tomorrow. Let’s take a look at some of the best (and worst) software languages of 2023.
Because we understand that technology choices are very subjective, we wanted to outline how we chose these languages. Here is a list of things that we ranked for (not in order of any particular importance):
The overall popularity of the language
Developers’ desire to use the language
Language ecosystem growth in the last few years
The languages’ dominance in a specific domain
Put more succinctly: We want to use free and open languages that the industry already uses and supports with a proven track record of solving the problems they were designed for. Our team loves experimenting with new technology, but we want to make sure when it comes time to build your project, we are 100% confident we are choosing the right technology for your business and that the technology is around for the long term.
This post is the opinion of our team at Steelhead Software, and we understand that some of these languages may not fit your specific use case. If you have a programming language in use that is not on this list or want a second opinion on a technology choice your team has made recently, we’d love to talk shop and help you create a SWOT analysis for your options.
NPM, the most significant node package manager hosting service, stated that over 2.1 million packages were hosted on their service as of September 2022. That's 2.1 million different libraries, tools, code snippets, and projects built in JS.
For developers who think JS leaves a lot to be desired, there is another option for the web space that is one of the most significant web innovations of the 2010s: TypeScript.
TypeScript’s static analysis toolset and type system help developer productivity in a few significant ways:
The type system and static analysis toolset helps find bugs before the app is even running
The type system acts as living documentation for the developers
The developer tooling can provide code improvement suggestions in real-time
Another huge reason TypeScript has seen widespread adoption in the web development industry is the developer’s constant obsession with ensuring that other teams can adopt TypeScript easily and incrementally. This allows teams to slowly migrate into a TS ecosystem without risking a complete codebase rewrite. TS makes it easy to invest in the technology (and see a return on that investment) early and slowly to grow its presence without the headaches that generally come with comparable language wrappers.
Our team at Steelhead utilizes TypeScript in every new web project. It's a no-brainer due to its massive developer productivity and software reliability improvements, which save you time and money.
Python has consistently ranked among the most popular programming languages for several years running. Taught in most university computer science programs, Its simplicity, readability, and extensive community make it an excellent language for beginners and experts alike.
Python is commonly used in various fields, including web development (as a back-end server language), data science, machine learning, and scientific computing. With the rise of AI (Chat-GPT anyone?) and machine learning applications, Python is becoming an ever-increasingly important language for developers to know.
Due to its open-source nature and being installed on most Linux operating systems by default, running a Python server is cheaper than any other back-end technology due to its lack of expensive licensing costs. The open-source nature of Python also helps prevent vendor lock-in long term since every cloud provider supports it as a first-class citizen.
C# is a popular programming language for building anything Windows-based. It's also widely used in enterprise application development, particularly for building web applications with Microsoft's ASP.NET framework. C# has a large community and a robust set of libraries and frameworks, making it a powerful language for developers who want to build complex applications quickly. More recently, Microsoft has open-sourced its complete .NET Core framework, revitalizing the language's popularity in the web industry as a solid alternative to Python.
C# performance is comparable to most other compiled languages, beating out python by large margins in benchmark tests (for the engineer who wants more evidence: (https://programming-language-benchmarks.vercel.app/python-vs-csharp). Python’s dynamic language features and interpretation in real-time causes it to regularly see performance differences of 4x - 44x slower than an equivalent C# program.
At Steelhead Software, we use C# as the back-end language of choice for most workflows due to its excellent developer productivity toolset and strong track record for enterprise-level applications. That being said, we have extensive experience developing in a Python and Node.js environment if the project requires a different platform. We choose the appropriate technology for the project rather than opting for the “easiest” one.
Go is a relatively new programming language that was created by Google in 2009. It's designed for high-performance applications and is particularly well-suited for building scalable network applications and web servers.
“Web-scale” applications have been the new hotness over the last ten years as the use of the internet on every device has dramatically increased. Google and similarly sized tech giants couldn't reliably build web services that could withstand the scaling issues of handling the web traffic of two billion people simultaneously. With the rise of cloud computing and microservices architectures, Go is becoming an increasingly important language for developers who want to build fast, efficient applications that can scale to handle the high traffic volume.
Go’s lightweight frameworks make it easy to build simple projects quickly, but its limited package ecosystem means that our team must build custom tools to handle tasks that C# and Python already have solutions for. It’s a trade-off many engineering-first companies (like Google) prefer to make.
When we discuss expected loads for the projects we are building, we ensure that the language we choose is up to the task. Choosing the right technology early is foundational to your project’s success.
Java is another large semi-open-source programming language that has been used by enterprises since 1995. Largely tainted by licensing issues with large companies like Oracle, Java has dropped in favor compared to other alternatives like C# or Python. While it's still popular due to its ease of distribution and legacy systems using it today, its frameworks and developer ecosystem have fallen behind compared to other languages. With that said, it makes our list because it is the language of choice for building a native Android application.
Google utilizes a specific version of Java for its Android platform and has kept Java popular because of that. However, Kotlin is a new language homegrown by JetBrains to try to solve some of Java's many problems in the Android space (though it has not quite taken over the mobile application industry just yet).
Sometimes the old steady horse is what we need. Steelhead Software still actively builds new Java applications if truly necessary but finds that to be less and less true every day.
The best software languages of 2023 are those that are versatile, actively evolving, and have a large community of developers to collaborate with. Choosing a technology with a promising future is essential to avoid being left behind with an unsupported app, putting your business at risk.