The other week, we predicted five programming languages doomed for extinction
. It sparked a lot of comments, to put it mildly, but it also got us thinking: What programming languages will grow and thrive in coming years? While the following list isn’t meant to be totally comprehensive, we chose five languages that could end up doing very well, based on current trends in data analytics and mobile operating systems.
It’s been quite a ride for Kotlin, which has grown from a little-known programming project into a “first class” language for Android development. Indeed, by making each successive Android SDK more “Kotlin friendly,” Google has made it clear that it really wants anyone building Android apps to at least consider using Kotlin. Meanwhile, a recent survey by Pusher
found that some 79.5 percent of tech pros who use Kotlin do so in the context of Android, while 31 percent rely on it for backend/server work. Another 30.5 percent interact with Kotlin the context of libraries, and 5.5 percent for “other” activities. Google’s push behind the language, and the obvious foundation of developer interest, mean that Kotlin has a sizable base from which to expand in coming years. Although Google’s plan for its future operating systems is unclear (cough, Fuchsia, cough
), Kotlin could end up playing a massive part—and considering Google’s worldwide reach, that means Kotlin conceivably has nowhere to go but up.
A few years back, Apple decided that it would replace Objective-C, which developers had used for decades to build apps for the Apple ecosystem, with Swift, a newer language positioned as making up for Objective-C’s deficiencies. Over the intervening period, tech punditry has tried to portray Objective-C and Swift as locked in something of a horserace for market-share, but it’s also clear that Swift is eventually going to win this one: Apple is throwing an enormous amount of official support behind it. That doesn’t mean that Objective-C is going away anytime soon; there’s lots of legacy code to be maintained, after all. But Swift will likely become the true backbone of Apple programming in years ahead—meaning that, between macOS, iOS and watchOS, it will drive software on an enormous number of devices.
A lot of folks love Rust. Just this year, in fact, the annual Stack Overflow Developer Survey
ranked it the “most loved” programming language, just ahead of Kotlin, signifying that developers want to use it more than other languages. What’s behind all this love? Rust is open-source, memory safe (not permitting null pointers, dangling pointers, or data races), and has a concrete syntax similar to C and C++. It’s elegant, friendly to those with less experience, and useful in Web and operating system contexts. What’s not
to love? In other words, there’s every reason to believe that Rust could become a monster in coming years, although it may take some time before it can begin to challenge the likes of C and C++ for market mega-adoption (it hasn’t even broken into TIOBE’s Top 20 rankings
, for instance).
While MATLAB isn’t in danger of replacing Java, C, or Python anytime soon atop various firms’ “Most Popular Languages” listings, the language has enjoyed a fairly steady rise in adoption. For example, it climbed from 17th place to 13th place on the most recent edition of the TIOBE Index
. What’s behind the language’s rise? It’s useful for data analysis, and can interact pretty well with popular languages such as Python (which is making its own inroads as a data-science tool), Fortran, and Java. As more companies weave analytics into their workflows, MATLAB could end up carving out a pretty big niche for itself.
Yeah, Python’s never going anywhere: it’s too popular, across too many different types of platforms.