5 Programming Languages Slated for Future Greatness

Last month, we boldly proclaimed that a handful of programming languages are almost certainly doomed in the medium- to long-term, based on data from firms such as RedMonk and TIOBE. That article generated quite a bit of chatter, so we decided to double down and create an even bolder sequel: programming languages that are poised to increase in usage over the next several years. 

As with our “doomed” languages, we’re relying on larger data trends in order to make our predictions. Some of our picks will seem obvious—and others, not so much.

Swift

Apple wants to kill Objective-C, the 35-year-old programming language used to build apps for the Apple ecosystem, and replace it with Swift, the language it unveiled five years ago. According to analyst firm RedMonk’s long-term language rankings, it seems that the company is well on its way to accomplishing those goals, with Swift rising rapidly in usage since its creation.

That being said, Objective-C is hanging on, no doubt thanks to the enormous amount of legacy code generated over the past three decades. But with Apple continuing to stomp on it, it’ll go away eventually, and Swift will power Apple’s apps from that point forward. Apple’s big plans for cross-platform apps may only accelerate this programming-language evolution.

Kotlin

Kotlin is on the rise. How could it not be? A decade ago, the only “Kotlin” was the Russian island; now there’s the programming language, which owes a good deal of its prominence to Google, which named it a first-class development language for Android.  

You could argue that Google, by choosing Kotlin, lessens its dependence on Java, which was the subject of an enormous legal dispute with Oracle. Whether or not Google’s lawyers are driving the company’s enthusiastic embrace of Kotlin, it’s clear that a lot of developers also like the language because of its features and flexibility.

Back in 2018, Pusher launched a developer survey and found that Kotlin usage was growing “astronomically,” thanks in large part to Android. “A large portion of developers program in Kotlin in both their work and side projects,” Pusher added in a note accompanying the data. “When it comes to favorite features, most like to play it safe, with null safety being adored by over 80 percent of developers, followed by extension functions, streamlined interoperability with Java, and data classes.”

In other words, it seems like Kotlin’s going nowhere soon. The big question is how much this programming language can expand beyond the Android ecosystem to conquer new areas.

Python

Yes, Python is a huge language, embraced by developers around the world for a variety of uses. But according to the TIOBE Index (updated monthly), Python is only continuing to climb in popularity—sometimes at the expense of other languages. Indeed, developers and tech professionals seem to constantly find new uses for Python, including data analytics and machine learning.

Given Python’s already-enormous user base, and its deep embedding in a wide plethora of businesses, it seems extremely unlikely that Python is going to fade away anytime soon. The only question is how much this programming language can continue to grow, and which industries it will seize next.

Groovy

Groovy’s enjoyed a groovy rise up the TIOBE rankings, bolstered by broad IDE support, its similarity to Java, and its integration with Jenkins, the popular open-source automation server. It’s become the “programming language glue” in enough systems that its future seems bright. 

TypeScript

For the purposes of this exercise, we’re calling TypeScript a programming language. Yes, it’s a superset of JavaScript, which some developers take to mean it’s not a “full” language, since it transpiles to JavaScript (there’s a neat Quora thread that breaks down the nuances here).

However you define it, both RedMonk and GitHub’s Octoverse report have positioned TypeScript as seriously on the rise. Last summer, TIOBE suggested that TypeScript was even beginning to cannibalize JavaScript’s market-share.

Whether or not you believe that TypeScript is a “new and improved” JavaScript about to swallow the older language whole, you can’t argue that a lot of tech professionals think that TypeScript has room to grow over the next few years.

20 Responses to “5 Programming Languages Slated for Future Greatness”

  1. tetsuoii

    C, C, C, C & ASM
    Oh, you may want to feed the bloated browser some javascript but apart from that, I don’t feel any of these languages deliver anything particularly useful.

    • besthelloworld

      Implying Typescript isn’t actually a language because it transpires to Javascript is like saying C isn’t a language because it transpires down to machine language and you _could_ basically just write that yourself instead.

  2. In terms of up-and-coming, I’d say Rust and Web Assembly are two great technologies going in a great direction, with strong communities and broad support. I agree that Swift and Kotlin are also up-and-coming. Python has already arrived.

    • IKR. Rust is the biggest non-hype to happen to programming languages since Go. It is gaining steam and will dwarf Go and replace a lot of C/C++ in the areas of systems programming, kernel, embedded and library development. And they’re missing Swift, Go, Haskell, R and Julia.

  3. Abbot the Mutt

    No, this is completely wrong. The author is a wanker who wanks. The future belongs to COBOL. No one has managed to replace it. It will live on. It will survive. It will outlive you. COBOL: there can only be one.

    • Anon E Mous

      Lots of languages on my resume, but even though my first computer class was COBOL on Hollerith Cards, it never made the cut on my resume!

      Like Microsoft, COBOL will keep you employed longer than you want to be!

  4. Jay Sistar

    Wow, I was going to leave a comment about Rust, C++20, Zig, and C are at the top of my list, and none of the ones in the article are needed at all … Ok, maybe Swift and Kotlin are needed for that stub that bootstraps my Rust an C++ code on iOS and Android, but that’s about it. It looks like the other commenters share my view on this subject. I’d really like to gid rid of that stub requirement, by the way, Apple and Google!

  5. This is like what is the best sport. I have been around for a while and seen some come and go. I have used way over 20 different languages both compile to machine and interpreted. They both have there place and reasons to hate and like. I started in the 1960’s and it seams to me they all break down to 1’s and 0’s. When I started we had hex dumps to read to find issues. Production systems that took a cool room were like 16k of memory. Hard Drives were 5Mgb fixed and 5 removable. SPS and AutoCoder did not have labels you reference a memory location by it’s hex address.
    Most people come out of school with a bias for a language they like. Basic would have never been a business language other than it was a big school language. A long time after I was out of school. The small business computer industry adopted it as a device to sell computers based on the large number of programmers coming out loving the language. It was extended enhanced tweaked pulled and pushed to do more.
    I still use what is available on the machine I am using with a bias to portable languages. I still use awk, bash, korn along with python. If I have to I use pl1 (was my love coming out of school), assembly language (mustly on embedded systems). But I draw the line at COBOL though I have used it before, never again. I will refuse unless I can do a rewrite in a language that is reasonable.

  6. Sid Wyckoff

    Two years into swift I wrote a joke comparing swift to a product of 100 monkeys, except that the monkeys’ code actually compiled. It has come a long way and I am excited to explore swiftUI.

  7. 20 Years ago when asked which language would be the best for scientific programming the answer was FORTRAN. I don’t think the landscape has changed that much since then and the answer remains the same. 🙂

  8. Alonza Barnes

    Why does it even matter what language you use anyway? I have coded in a couple of languages(C,C++,Java,C#,Python,Visual Basic,JavaScript,PHP,Ruby,Swift,Kotlin,Dart etc) besides a few libraries and slightly different syntax, it’s all the same nonsense to me(I know some languages are designed to handle certain projects/issues essentially)… I want to solve the problem of: One programming language for any use case… And I hate Web Development with all these frameworks and “work-arounds”…

    All the 10+ year veterans commenting on this post, I have a question for you: Why haven’t some group already engineered a language that just works for everything and been done with it already?

    Maybe Python is on that track… I think Visual Studio tried to be close to that solution too…