9 cutting-edge programming languages worth learning now
These strong alternatives to the popular languages are gaining steam -- and may be the perfect fit for your next project
By Peter Wayner | InfoWorld | Published: 17:49, 03 November 2014
The big languages are popular for a reason: They offer a huge foundation of open source code, libraries, and frameworks that make finishing the job easier. This is the result of years of momentum in which they are chosen time and again for new projects, and expertise in their nuances grow worthwhile and plentiful.
Sometimes the vast resources of the popular, mainstream programming languages aren't enough to solve your particular problem. Sometimes you have to look beyond the obvious to find the right language, where the right structure makes the difference while offering that extra feature to help your code run significantly faster without endless tweaking and optimizing. This language produces vastly more stable and accurate code because it prevents you from programming sloppy or wrong code.
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The following nine languages should be on every programmer's radar. They may not be the best for every job -- many are aimed at specialized tasks. But they all offer upsides that are worth investigating and investing in. There may be a day when one of these languages proves to be exactly what your project -- or boss -- needs.
Erlang: Functional programming for real-time systems
Erlang began deep inside the spooky realms of telephone switches at Ericsson, the Swedish telco. When Ericsson programmers began bragging about its "nine 9s" performance, by delivering 99.9999999 percent of the data with Erlang, the developers outside Ericsson started taking notice.
Erlang's secret is the functional paradigm. Most of the code is forced to operate in its own little world where it can't corrupt the rest of the system through side effects. The functions do all their work internally, running in little "processes" that act like sandboxes and only talk to each other through mail messages. You can't merely grab a pointer and make a quick change to the state anywhere in the stack. You have to stay inside the call hierarchy. It may require a bit more thought, but mistakes are less likely to propagate.
The model also makes it simpler for runtime code to determine what can run at the same time. With concurrency so easy to detect, the runtime scheduler can take advantage of the very low overhead in setting up and ripping down a process. Erlang fans like to brag about running 20 million "processes" at the same time on a Web server.
If you're building a real-time system with no room for dropped data, such as a billing system for a mobile phone switch, then check out Erlang.
Go: Simple and dynamic
Google wasn't the first organization to survey the collection of languages, only to find them cluttered, complex, and often slow. In 2009, the company released its solution: a statically typed language that looks like C but includes background intelligence to save programmers from having to specify types and juggle malloc calls. With Go, programmers can have the terseness and structure of compiled C, along with the ease of using a dynamic script language.
While Sun and Apple followed a similar path in creating Java and Swift, respectively, Google made one significantly different decision with Go: The language's creators wanted to keep Go "simple enough to hold in one programmer's head." Rob Pike, one of Go's creators, famously told Ars Technica that "sometimes you can get more in the long run by taking things away." Thus, there are few zippy extras like generics, type inheritance, or assertions, only clean, simple blocks of if-then-else code manipulating strings, arrays, and hash tables.
The language is reportedly well-established inside of Google's vast empire and is gaining acceptance in other places where dynamic-language lovers of Python and Ruby can be coaxed into accepting some of the rigor that comes from a compiled language.
If you're a startup trying to catch Google's eye and need to build some server-side business logic, Go is a great place to start.