Whether you’re looking to code to improve your career or learn a new skill, you’ll come across Python on your travels.
Python has been the most popular coding language since the 2010s, only in a fast-changing world. Programming, like everything else, is in a state of perma-flux.
History has one consistent narrative, and that’s change. So which programming languages are going to challenge Python in the future?
Here we’ll walk you through which languages you’re likely to encounter in a post-Python world.
Why is Python so popular?
Python is popular with programmers because it’s easier to use compared to C++ and Java. It’s famous for its simple programming syntax, code readability, and English-like commands that make coding with Python easier and more efficient than other languages.
Python is easy to use because it places more emphasis on natural language. Due to its ease of learning, Python codes execute faster than most of its rivals, which makes it great for newcomers.
‘Pythonistas’ have uploaded 145,000 customized software packages to an online repository, which covers everything from gaming to astronomy, and you can install these packages to a Python program in seconds.
Given its popularity among newcomers, the programming language might seem unassailable at present. Change is coming, though, with developers migrating to new tools as they look for greater improvements and performance levels.
What are developers saying about Python?
JetBrains recently conducted its annual State of Developer Ecosystem 2021 report, speaking to 31,743 developers from 183 countries and regions about everything from programming languages to lifestyle choices.
Some of the report’s key takeaways were:
- Python is more popular than Java in terms of overall usage, while Java is more popular than Python as a primary language.
- The five fastest-growing languages are Python, TypeScript, Kotlin, SQL, and Go.
Successful new programming languages are emerging despite Python’s dominance, including the developer’s favorite Rust, a high-level language designed for performance and safety.
Most memory errors in programming occur when a program is running. Rust ensures that these types of mistakes, such as null or dangling pointers and data races, never make it to production.
Given its safety performance, the language has grown in popularity with developers and won the “most beloved” programming language in the Stack Overflow Developer Survey for the fifth year running.
What is Rust?
Rust helps ensure high performance and is comparable to C and C++ programming languages. But, unlike them, Rust can guarantee memory safety by using a borrow checker that enforces data ownership rules.
Its safety protocols have performed so well that software giants such as Firefox, Dropbox, and Cloudflare are now adopting Rust as their programming language.
“Rust has been a force multiplier for our team, and betting on Rust was one of the best decisions we made. More than performance, its ergonomics and focus on correctness has helped us tame sync’s complexity. We can encode complex invariants about our system in the type system and have the compiler check them for us.”
Sujay Jayakar, Principal Designer at Dropbox (Sept 2012 – March 2020)
Big Tech is backing Rust
Google is backing a Rust-led project to help them rewrite elements of the Linux kernel, so they can reduce its internal security flaws. Microsoft is also turning to Rust to help them reduce bugs in their Windows components.
Facebook, meanwhile, is forging closer ties with them, joining the Rust Foundation, an organization created to drive Rust’s development and make it a “mainstream language of choice for systems programming and beyond.”
The social media giant joins a growing list of tech companies such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla, using Rust in some capacity.
Will Rust challenge Python in the future?
Rust has the same safety qualities as Python in that no one variable can overwrite itself by accident. But critically, Rust can solve performance issues, making it extremely popular with developers.
One challenge that developers consistently face is managing a computer’s memory safely and efficiently.
Python has a “garbage collector” that looks out for unused memory and cleans it up while the program runs, while programmers using C and C++ languages need to allocate and free up memory on the go.
If you use Rust, memory allocates itself through an ownership system at set periods, ensuring unused data cleans itself without the developer giving it free memory, making it a favorite of big tech companies.
What other languages are challenging Python?
Rust is proving very popular but it’s not the only programming language challenging Python.
- Go is a beginner-friendly language so simple that it’s easier than Python to code. What’s more, Go developers are some of the best paid on the market right now, making it one to watch. Companies using Go include Google, BBC, Uber, and Soundcloud.
- Julia is a new programming language that allows you to code large-scale technical projects without using Python and C++ libraries, making it a popular choice in the developer community. Companies using Julia include N26, Flitto, and Amber by inFeedo.
What lies beyond Python?
While Rust, Go, and Julia are making headway with developers, the brand power of Python gives it a huge advantage. It’s the programming language that all non-coders instantly recognize and that will inevitably provide comfort and security to newcomers.
Given its popularity among beginners, Python’s ascendancy is unlikely to be threatened over the next few years.
All empires fall, though, and given Python’s recent performance issues. It won’t be a surprise if its crown starts to rust.
Who do you think will overtake Python in the future? Or will its dominance continue? Feel free to leave a comment if you want to contribute to the debate. Otherwise, if you want to learn more about programming, check out Why you need to learn Python now and 5 programming languages to learn in 2021.