If you were to organize programming languages into tiers, there would probably three main tiers.
Most of the top tier languages are firmly entrenched. It takes quite a while for a programming language to fall out of the highest tier, and it’s also very hard fo second-tier to reach the first one.
The second tier would include languages that are waiting to break into the mainstream but just haven’t had that luck yet. They have proven themselves by building strong communities of support, but they’re still not where they want to be. The second tier would include languages like Scala, Go, Swift, Clojure and probably Haskell.
Some companies use these languages in a couple of the services they offer, but they’re very rare in the wide industrial use. Maybe expect of Swift, which is kind of overtaking Objective-C as the first iOS language. The Go and Swift languages have really good chances of moving from the second tier to the first over the next couple of years.
The emerging programming languages with a promising future that we’re going to elaborate are in the third tier, and they’re starting to gain a following! Some languages have been in the lowest tier for a very long time, and never took the next step towards popularity. Others have burst onto the scene in just one or two years!
The top 5 emerging programming languages with a promising future ahead of them are:
Why these 5 languages?
The languages I chose are fairly new to the industry, and there’s a very good chance that it’s the first time you hear of them. They have a clearly strong chance of breaking into the second-tier language group in two or three years. Hopefully, these languages will even join the first-tier languages someday!
Here’s why these languages made the list above the others.
Kotlin has been around for some five years, but it finally reached version 1.0 just this year. Even though it hasn’t exactly achieved the popularity of Scala, Groovy or Cjolure, it kind of separates itself from the JVM languages that seems poised to take its place among the leaders of this group.
Rust is a systems programming language designed to replace a lot of C and C++ development. This is probably the main reason why it made the list – it’s very surprising though that this language is growing fast among web developers. It probably starts to make sense for you once you know that Mozilla created it, who looks to give web devs a better option that’s more performant than PHP or Python.
Elixir takes a lot of inspiration from the Ruby ecosystem. But, different from Ruby, it tries to bring C-like benefits such as creating high-availability and low-latency systems. This is something that Rails had trouble with a lot.
Crystal also made the list as the language that hopes to bring C-like performance into the abstracted world of web devs. Crystal’s main aim is the Ruby community, which has very similar syntax and is at times identical to Ruby’s.
Let’s take a look of four out of the five of the languages we elaborated a little bit above:
Every one of these languages already has a very strong and enthusiastic community and its very own newsletter. This is a clear sign that they’ve made it!
Elm takes the first position in the top 5 emerging programming languages with a promising future list.
- It has no runtime exceptions: Production Elm code is very well known for never throwing runtime exceptions. A far cry from the infamous “undefined is not a function. It’s terrifying to read even in an article!
- Very helpful compiler: The famous Elm’s compiler is widely known for having the most helpful error messages, far from being confusing. “If it compiles, it just works” is a very common sentiment, even after a serious refactor. This point makes Elm code much easier to maintain, as you know what the error is specifically.
- Very fast and functional: Elm is a pure functional programming language, and it guarantees you no mutation or side effects. Amazing, right? Not only does it guarantee that Elm code scales nicely, but it also helps render application user interfaces faster than React or Ember!
- Powerful tools: elm-format formats the source code according to community standards. There will be no more style conventions. All you have to do is to hit Save in your text editor and the code will beautify itself.
An interesting fact about Kotlin is that it was born out of the need at JetBrains, which was desperate for a new language in which to write its tooling. At that time it was all written in Java.
They were looking for something that would allow it to leverage the existing code base, and simultaneously resolve some issues it had with Java. Not much to ask, right?
Kotlin’s main characteristics are:
Conciseness: Kotlin is very famous for reducing the amount of boilerplate code that is necessary to express certain constructs.
- Versatile: If allows you to create a language that is suitable for any type of industrial app development like web, mobile, desktop or server–side.
- Safe: Let the language handle some of the common pitfalls made with issues such as “null reference exception” which is a nightmare.
- Tool–enabled: Jetbrains makes tools out of the belief that many mundane tasks can be automated and lead to more efficient development.
Kotlin has always been about pragmatism – seeing common issues developers encounter repeatedly when writing code and trying to help address these.
Kotlin 1.0 was released in 2015, after more than five years in development and extensive testing in real-world projects. Currently, a lot of products at JetBrains use Kotlin.
As mentioned above, Rust is a systems programming language that combines C-like efficiency control over memory using functional language such as strong static typing.
It has three primary goals:
- Safety: Most of the C-like languages are known to open doors to memory errors that result from manual memory management. Rust, on the other hand, takes best practices from modern C++ like RAII and smart pointers and makes them language requirements which ensures that Rust code is memory-safe.
- Speed: Almost all languages run slower than C just because they provide abstractions that make software development easier, but increase runtime. Rust has an interesting focus here – ‘zero-cost abstractions”. For example, Rust manages memory at compile time and uses static dispatch for generics.
- Concurrency: Concurrent code in systems languages is more often than not very fragile and prone to error. This comes from the tricky nature with programming threads. Rust alleviates these issues by providing type-level guarantees for what kinds of values can be shared between threads and where.
Rust also has amazing features, such as the borrow checker. In essence, this feature is a static analysis tool that reads your code and stops compiling immediately if it may cause a memory error.
Also, another amazing feature is that instead of using the inheritance-based class system like C++ or Java, Rust uses traits to support modular programming.
Elixir was first introduced back in 2012 and is a general-purpose functional language that is mainly designed for productivity, scalability, and maintainability. While the language is still new, it compiles to bytecode that runs on the Erlang Virtual Machine.
Elixir fully deserved a place in one of the 5 emerging programming languages with a promising future
At the moment, Elixir is mainly used to build web apps using either Cowboy (which is a bare-bones HTTP server) or Phoenix (a full-features web app framework).
The Elixir syntax is inspired by Ruby, and the syntax is very similar to it. The commands are well thought out and are very easy to use and facilitate great developer productivity.
Elixir’s main language goals are:
Friendly functional programming: The very powerful benefits of a functional language with clear and very approachable syntax.
Highly concurrent and very scalable: The language should not get in the way of tackling big problems for a lot of users.
Amazing development tools: These tools are mostly for building, managing dependencies, testing, and deployment.
Here’s an example of a Phoenix controller written purely in Elixir.
Elixir’s main features are:
- Immutable data structures and close to no side effects. This helps to make large systems very easily maintainable and easier to reason.
- Supervision allows the developer to define an internal process tree and set rules for automatic error to recover.
- Pattern matching provides the developer with a great alternative to conditionals and guard clauses.
- Very efficient resource management that allows the developer to serve many user with limited hardware.
- Hot-swappable code for, amazingly, zero-downtime deploys.
Crystal is mainly a general-purpose language with the motto of “Fast as C, and slick as Ruby”.
It’s really no mistake that Crystal is one of the 5 emerging programming languages with a promising future
In essence, it’s a high-level and statically typed object-oriented language with very advanced type inference and garbage collection.
The design goals that Crystal has are:
- Having the syntax as similar as possible to Ruby
- Be statically type-checked without having to specify the type of variables
- Being able to call C code just by writing bindings to it in Crystal
- Compile to efficient native code.
Crystal has some very unique features like:
- Channels: This feature was inspired by CSP like go, and its main goal is to achieve concurrency. It has some very cooperative threads called Fibers to achieve this. You can easily create a Fiber with a spawn keyboard and make the operation asynchronous.
- Macros: Crystal is known to use macros to avoid boilerplate code and gain a lot of metaprogramming abilities. Macros are tremendously powerful and evaluated at compile-time, which translates to having no performance penalty.
- Crystal command: The crystal command is very powerful and comes with amazing built-in tools. It’s used to create a new project, compile and run the test suit.