Why Programmers Stopped Building New Languages

In the late 80s, programming languages were spawning one each month on average, and so far, about 9,000 programming languages have been developed. But strangely, in the past three years, only three notable languages have come up, namely — C++20, Microsoft Power Fx, and Carbon. That makes the average nosedive to one language a year from one a month! 

Why is it that the twentieth century saw hundreds of programming languages being developed, but in the 21st century, when most of the world is on the internet, there are only a handful of them? Why are Javascript and Python, released decades ago, still the favorite ones of developers? 

And it’s not that Python and Javascript are flawless; in fact, Python requires more testing and has runtime faults due to the dynamic typing of the language. Its database access layers are not well-developed, and the client side of the application isn’t great either. Similarly, challenges have been encountered by developers using Javascript, namely – its permissive nature, client-side security, the difficulty of online debugging, and browser inconsistency. So what makes them tick?

Why did some programming languages attain cult popularity?

Programming languages like Python’s popularity is largely due to how user-friendly it is. It is a high-level programming language with a focus on framework, extensive libraries, and readable code. Also, the fact that it is open-source, with a user-friendly data structure which also provided easy integration with web services, made the language famous among developers. 

In a similar vein, Javascript too is one of the most-popular programming languages in the market. It’s a feature-rich, object-based scripting language on which almost all of the websites are built, since most internet browsers are compatible with Javascript. Additionally, the language has made itself relevant to the ever-evolving tech ecosystem by introducing massive updates, so much so that Javascript today is vastly different from the Javascript of the previous decade.

But why have new programming languages stopped popping up?

More may not always be merrier when it comes to programming language features. When we have multiple ways to describe the same idea, it might get confusing. Also, we don’t actually need new programming languages – the developers seem to have decided that they are more comfortable with updating the framework, rather than building a whole new language from scratch. Krishna Rastogi, CTO, MachineHack told Analytics India Magazine, “Building a programming language from scratch is a time-consuming process which can easily be evaded by simply updating the framework.”

According to Rastogi, the initial race was to figure out the best compilers. Since the hardware was not too reliable, developers had to look for ways where the lack of hardware capability could be compensated with the sophistication of programming languages. “But once the hardware became good enough, the developers saw no point in developing a programming language just for the sake of developing it,” said Rastogi. 

And since the hardware was capable enough of supporting the programming language, the community was built around those that stood out, for example, Javascript and Python.

“These communities grew so big that almost everyone started out in the field having learned at least one of these programming languages. Most colleges too start their course with C, which is the Bible of programming languages,” he said.

Additionally, because a majority of engineers are fluent in these programming languages, businesses must only hire workers who are. Since the learning curve has gotten so long, it is now practically impossible to totally replace the programming languages. “However, big tech companies do have their own stack, and they are capable of training new employees on it. Google, for example, has recently released its new programming language– Carbon, while Facebook and Apple had launched Hack and Swift in 2014, respectively.”

However, while the traditional programming languages might have slowed down, Web3 promises to make an exception. Since the ecosystem is new, many new programming languages based on Web3 have spawned out. “We surely are seeing the dawn of Web3 and quantum computing programming languages in the tech space. Solidity, Scala, and Elixir are good examples of these,” concluded Rastogi.

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