5 Programming Languages That Will Dominate 2021: Python, Go, More

Forecasting the world’s most popular programming languages over the next few years is a difficult task. Oftentimes, bold predictions about a language’s dominance won’t pan out; then you have the languages that seem to come out of nowhere to seize a significant niche (often with a bit of a boost from a major tech company). 

Every so often, though, a language’s spike in popularity makes it easier to predict its rosy future. That’s definitely the case with this year’s list… but we’ll get to that in a bit. Before we plunge into our predictions for which languages will dominate the tech industry in 2021 (assisted by a sterling panel of developers and technologists), let’s hear some words of caution from Andrew Carr, Head of Engineering at SquareFoot. 

Carr tells Dice: “The way to think about languages is not to think about what’s new in 2021 compared to 2020 and which language will ‘win,’ but to think about what was true in 1999, is still true in 2020, and will remain true in 2030.”

In other words, it’s all about the long term—and you should structure your learning (and mastery) appropriately. “I’d recommend deciding what’s important and building your working culture around it rather than worrying about whether you’re missing out by not using a new language,” he adds. “If you’re an individual engineer and want to know how you can help yourself, double down on the fundamentals of how the languages you currently work in interact with the underlying operating system or runtime. A little focus on the fundamentals goes a long way here, and the fundamentals will still be the same in 2030.”

So which programming languages will continue to dominate in 2021? Here’s what our panel of technologists thinks.

Python

Artur Yolchan, Senior Software Engineer and owner of the website Coding Skills, says: “Python will probably be the most favorite programming language for developers in 2021.” 

The increased use of Python in a specialized context has a lot to do with that, suggests Alex Yelenevych, CMO of CodeGym: “In the development of artificial intelligence systems, Python has proven itself. In addition, many modern and safe sites are written in Python, and it is also very often learned in schools. The language is pleasant and quite simple for beginners, so its popularity will only grow.”

It takes a lot to erode the usage of older, more generalist programming languages, even when newer languages begin to attract a lot of buzz, adds Matt Pillar, VP of Engineering at OneSignal: “Python is an old favorite, and it’s not going away anytime soon. While incumbents like Rust and TypeScript are occupying more and more mindshare, taking some attention away from Python, Python continues to be one of the most loved and most utilized programming languages. With its strong connection to data science toolkits, Python is being taught at an increasing number of programming bootcamps and is well poised to be a favorite first language for developers in the years to come.”

If you’re totally new to Python, start your learning journey by heading over to Python.org, which offers a handy beginner’s guide. Microsoft has a video series, “Python for Beginners,” with dozens of short, Python-related lessons. There’s also a variety of Python tutorials and books (some of which will cost a monthly fee) that will teach you the nuances of the programming language (and don’t forget your IDEs).

JavaScript

Michael O’Connell, Chief Analytics Officer at TIBCO Software, doesn’t think the ultra-popular JavaScript is going anywhere, especially when it comes to dominating developers’ mindshare in 2021:

The maturation of JavaScript as a design and development environment has been phenomenal and will accelerate in 2021. Whether you are working on the front-end with JavaScript, apps and frameworks with React, Angular and vue.js, desktop apps with Electron.js, or backend with Node.js, JavaScript is the ticket! You can even develop machine learning with Tensorflow.js. 

I see the worlds of self-service BI and visual analytics becoming ever more mashed up in 2021 with (a) BI and analytics vendors providing seamless experiences for extending their graphics palettes as simple-to-modify native capabilities and deployment; and (b) marketplaces for sharing extensions across broad communities of practice. The maturation of Vega (from the d3 pioneers) as a visualization grammar and platform will help standardize and enforce best practices across these communities.

Yelenevych agrees, citing JavaScript’s frameworks as a key component to its success. “JavaScript—you can find this language in use on almost every website. I think React, already the most popular JS frontend library, will continue to gain popularity. In general, developers love to create applications in React.”

Indeed, it seems virtually certain that JavaScript will continue to serve as the engine that powers the web well beyond 2021, especially as new generations of students utilize it for websites’ scripted behavior. Millions of websites will still rely on third-party JavaScript libraries and frameworks. 

TypeScript

A counterpoint to the assumption JavaScript will continue its long-term popularity comes from Pillar, who reminds us TypeScript may start eating away at JavaScript’s dominance: “TypeScript offers a superset of JavaScript capabilities, and was introduced to extend the utility of JavaScript. TypeScript is easier to maintain than JavaScript as a result of its type safety features and has become the go-to language for greenfield, scalable frontend applications.” 

Pillar adds: “While JavaScript is still the predominant language of the web, TypeScript is on its heels. As new applications are written in TypeScript and more and more legacy JavaScript apps are migrated incrementally, we can expect to see TypeScript surpass JavaScript in utilization in the years to come.”

Why is TypeScript so popular? With every passing version (it’s now up to 4.0), it continues to add new features that developers find insanely useful. No wonder that, in the 2020 edition of the Stack Overflow Developer Survey, some 67.1 percent of surveyed developers said that TypeScript was a programming language they loved, just ahead of Python (66.7 percent), Kotlin (62.9 percent), and Go (62.3 percent). 

Whether or not you consider TypeScript an actual programming language (technically, it’s a superset of the ultra-popular and well-established JavaScript, but many programming language rankings treat it as a full-on language), it seems poised to dominate developer thinking in 2021 and beyond.  

Go

“Among working professionals, Go is the most popular aspiration language to learn by far. 32% of professional developers want to learn the language” says Sachin Gupta, CEO and co-founder of HackerEarth. Yelenevych says Go pops up with increasing regularity, making it a language to look out for in 2021.

It’s no surprise that Go is popular. It was a top paying tech skill in 2019, and has one of the best hourly rates for freelancers. Developed by Google over a decade ago as a programming language that could incorporate the best parts of other languages (such as the runtime efficiency of C++ and the readability of Python), it’s enjoyed a steadily growing pool of developers who use it. In coming years, it might get even bigger. 

Kotlin

Kotlin came up routinely in our panel discussion, and it’s clear that developers are watching this language closely, especially given how Google’s been encouraging its use for Android development. “Android programming is about Java and Kotlin,” Yelenevych says. “These two JVM languages will be trending.”

Yolchan notes: “Kotlin is widely used for Android native app development. [Although] Android apps can be developed using Java 8, Kotlin is now the preferred language for most developers. Let’s also not forget that Kotlin is a JVM-based language, and it supports all Java libraries. So, developing backend services using Kotlin also will be trending, as well.”

Google’s embrace of Kotlin really accelerated things. “Kotlin is well positioned to absorb the mindshare that has historically been directed toward Java,” Pillar says. “Built on the JVM, Kotlin’s portability gives the language large breadth, from mobile to server-side (via frameworks like Spring) to web frontends (via compilation JavaScript), Kotlin can operate in a variety of environments. Developers love features like null safety, coroutine support, and the mix of procedural and functional programming features.”

Which Programming Language Will Succeed?

When evaluating languages that could really take off next year, there were others in the mix, including Swift, Java, and Rust. Of those three, Swift garnered the most interest, although it’s largely meant to serve Apple’s software ecosystem, which necessarily limits its utility in some areas. The languages listed above all had a pretty broad use-case. 

If we’re picking a dark horse for a language poised for a true breakout in 2021, it’s TypeScript. Not only is it really beloved, but it continues to add JavaScript features. More to the point, if JavaScript ever declines in terms of market-share and attention, TypeScript is there to instantly fill that void. 

Still, as Carr advises, don’t stop upskilling your JavaScript credentials just because TypeScript is cool. There’s a good chance we’ll pick this discussion up in December 2021 and wonder why TypeScript never took off. Such is the world of programming languages, no matter what the year. 

13 Responses to “5 Programming Languages That Will Dominate 2021: Python, Go, More”

  1. 7:29 AM 12/19/2020

    I’m earning $184,258.26 per year programming in BASIC, ForTran, COBOL, and PasCal, submitting my compiling requests manually on punchcards, to our mainframe department.

    I believe I’m underpaid.

    Gotta go. Gotta call the my milkman on my rotary dial landline telephone. He doubles as an electronics technician. He needs to fix my VCR and my 8-track player. He also needs to take a look at my IBM Selectric typewriter.

    Does anyone know why a perfectly good black ‘n’ white television isn’t getting good reception? Maybe it’s too near my record player? Or maybe setting my record player to just play 78s is causing some EMF EMI?

    Oh, there goes the dryer buzzer. Gotta take my polyester leisure suits out. Gonna hit the discotheque tonight (bet you didn’t know “disco” was short for discotheque).

    I hope my AMC Pacer starts right up when I go to leave. That car has been trouble lately even though it’s practically brand new.

    I gotta get to the library and look up some programming books in the library index cards catalogue drawers.

    But before I do, I gotta fill up the AMC Pacer. Funny, I always drive in to the service station and wait and wait but the attendant never comes out to fill up my tank, check my oil, and clean my windshield. I always end up driving away listening to my cassette tapes to put me in a better mood. I like to listen to Tiny Tim … and Boris Karloff’s MONSTER MASH.

    Before I go out tonight to the discotheque, I need to pick up a new bottle of Jovan Musk Oil. The foxy chics always dig that smell along with my silk psychedelic-patterned dress shirts and my high-heeled mens’ shoes. I’m cool.

    Well, gotta run now. My brand new Commodore 64 computer is due to arrive via USPS. I had to wait up to 8 weeks for shipping and handling but boy am I going to be able to do some high end BASIC programming on THAT machine. Again, I’m a cool guy. I also ordered the latest model dot matrix printer I could find. Both were sold brand new to me by some nice salesman with the last name of eBay and he SWEARS to me a warranty of 7 years on this NEW gear. I believe him … ‘cuz I’m a cool cat.

    Anyways, see ya on the flipside.

    P.S. I’m really cool … I think.