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Best web programming languages for web development

You want to create a website or a web application. So what are the best web programming languages available and why are they the best?

This is an important question and I would like to emphasize, forcefully and directly, that there is no universal answer. What one developer considers the best web programming language may be garbage in the eyes of another.

Let me also clarify that, when I talk about the best “web programming languages”, I am not focusing on markup languages and stylesheets, such as HTML and CSS. They are essential to know if you do web development, but they are not programming languages either.

With those caveats out of the way, let’s take a look at which programming languages, generally speaking at least, are good for web development.

PHP

When PHP debuted in the mid-1990s, many devotees called it the best web programming language, because it revolutionized the way internet software was developed. PHP made it practical for the first time to build dynamic websites and thus transformed the web from a collection of mostly static content to an interactive medium.

Two decades after PHP’s first release, its popularity has waned somewhat. There is now a strong anti-PHP coalition. Complaints center on PHP’s poor design and the fact that simple tasks require a lot of code.

However, say what you will about PHP, the fact remains that it is still by far the most widely used – though probably not the best – language for web development. For that reason alone, PHP is a must-have language for web developers.

Java

Java was designed as a multi-purpose programming language. It was never designed for web applications in particular, any more than it was intended for writing, say, a smartwatch application. But while Java was not created with the sole purpose of browser-based development in mind, many still consider it one of the best web programming languages to learn and use.

In other words, Java is a language that the average developer already knows. If you need to create a web application and don’t want your developers (or the people who will have to maintain your code in the future) to learn a new language to do so, Java might be a good fit.

Go

If they are looking for a general-purpose programming language that is easier for web applications than Java, Golang, better known as simply Go, may be what they are looking for.

Introduced in 2009, Go is a flexible and extensible language with a strong community behind it. It makes it easy for developers to create applications that take advantage of parallel processing. That gives Go an advantage if used to create high-performance web applications. Go is not as popular as Java, but it is likely to grow over time.

Therefore, Go can be an excellent choice if you want an up-to-date programming solution that works well for web applications as well as other types of applications.

Ruby on Rails

You can’t talk about general-purpose programming languages useful for web development without mentioning Ruby on Rails. For developers programming with Ruby, a general-purpose language, Ruby on Rails provides an easy way to create server-side web applications.

There is much debate about whether Ruby and Ruby on Rails are dying. However, proponents of the framework will enthusiastically argue that it is still one of the best web programming languages for creating applications quickly. People have been predicting Ruby’s demise for several years, and while Ruby is not as popular as it once was, it is unlikely to disappear.

In fact, in March 2018, the Tiobe index, which tracks the popularity of programming languages, reported that Ruby had returned to its top 10 list. If Ruby comes back into fashion, Ruby on Rails skills are a valuable asset.

Python

Python is a programming language that developers can use in a wide variety of contexts. While Python was not designed specifically for web development, frameworks such as Django make it easy to use as a foundation for web programming. Old Python can also be used to write web applications, if desired.

Whether Python and Django are the best web programming languages in a technical sense is a question impossible to answer objectively.

However, one argument in favor of Python, but not for most of the other languages on this list, is that it lends itself to many use cases. In other words, if you learn Python for use in web development, you will also learn a language that you can use for everything from system administration to mobile development.

JavaScript (and Node.js)

JavaScript is also a must-have language for web application development. That’s true not only because JavaScript dominates the world of client-side programming languages for websites, but also because it can be extended to server-side environments using Node.js.

JavaScript and Node.js are not as extensible as Python. I probably wouldn’t use Node.js for system administration, for example, although it has been done. But together, these two languages cover pretty much any kind of web-related programming use case you might face.

Conclusion

Lest I face the wrath of those whose favorite languages are not on this list, let me emphasize again: your mileage may vary. There is no best programming language for the web, and the above list is certainly not an exhaustive list of web programming languages.

But if you’re working in web development today, these are the languages you’ll probably want to know.

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