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Open Thread: What's Your Favorite Programming Language?

While perhaps only our geekiest readers have a favorite programming language, it’s a useful question since so many web workers do know how to code, even if it’s just hacking up JavaScript and PHP on a WordPress installation.

Java, the choice of enterprise IT shops everwhere, isn’t feeling much love online these days: first InfoWorld calls it the new Cobol. Then two professors emeriti say it’s ruining computer science education.

Meanwhile, Ruby-based web framework Ruby on Rails doesn’t seem quite so hot this year as it was last January, Scala’s getting some laughs, and people have been wondering why Erlang’s so buzzy.

So geeks: share your own programming language opinions here. What programming languages do you use right now? Which ones do you love? Are there any you want to take a closer look at? And what programming languages suck, in your (surely humble) opinion?

106 Responses to “Open Thread: What's Your Favorite Programming Language?”

  1. I note that a bunch of the posters are replying as to what language makes them money. That’s kind of missing the point – Anne asked what is your favorite programming language. I ask this on interviews, and sadly 80% of the people name Java as both the one they use the most, and their favorite.

    My thought on this matter is Java is a pretty piss poor language. Never having used C#, I’m not sure how much better it is over Java.

    I like C++ because of the challenge factor – it’s a difficult and finicky language and if you master it, you have accomplished something.

    However in terms of fun languages, I think Python is pretty high up there. Objective C is neato, but actually it’s AppKit that is the best part.

    Ruby and Erlang are nifty, but both lack Unicode support. I guess if you never need to understand the strings you are dealing with it’s ok. Erlang lacks programming in the large and multiple code and data organization methods. Modules work, but don’t seem powerful enough.

    Javascript works, but dealing with the prototype based OO is a little confusing to many people. Just doing straight forward inheritance is tricky, luckily it’s a feature you rarely need.

    With Stackless Python, I’m going to put my money in the Python camp vs the Erlang camp. Sorry guys.

  2. Python: clean, high-productivity, versatile, and doesn’t come and go with marketing or fashion (because it’s never been favored by either). I’ll use C, C++ or Javascript when I must, but always Python when I have a choice.


  3. @Kevin: you “sounded” like you were yelling because you put FRAMEWORK in all caps.

    I didn’t think you were accusing me of fanning the flames of the language wars — I thought you were accusing me of not knowing what I was talking about. It happens, of course, more often than I’d like, but in this case I just didn’t write clearly.

    RoR seemed like the right thing to cite given it’s how most people experience Ruby and it does seem to be waning in hype if not actual use.

  4. Kevin Stewart

    @Anne: I wasn’t yelling. I actually agree with you that most people experience Ruby via Rails. And, maybe that’s the problem. Ruby the language is actually pretty good on its own, but people only really pay attention to it in the context of Rails. Then, when people read stuff like Zed’s rant, criticism for one thing gets applied (sometimes, unfairly) to the other.

    I only pointed this out due to the fact that all your other examples were specifically languages. I hope you don’t think I was accusing you of fanning the language wars; definitely not the intent.

  5. This is hardly a language wars post, Kevin, so your concern about “fanning the flames” seems unwarranted. I’m aware that Rails is a web framework, but it’s the way many people actually experience Ruby, and the post I linked to was about Ruby on Rails not Ruby itself.

    Apology for your pedantry accepted, in the future no need to YELL.

  6. Been using ColdFusion for 10 years and love it. The recent release of ColdFusion 8 takes the language in a very positive direction.

    Came from a Perl background and have tried PHP, Java/JSP and others like Ruby on Rails along the way but none have clicked for me the way CF has.

    Not getting in to which ones suck — every language has strengths just find the one you like.

  7. Kevin Stewart

    “Meanwhile, Ruby on Rails doesn’t seem quite so hot this year as it was last January, Scala’s getting some laughs, and people have been wondering why Erlang’s so buzzy.

    Ruby on Rails is a FRAMEWORK, not a language. Sorry to be pedantic, but I see this on blogs way too many times. People constantly conflate the language with the tool. That leads to even more fanning of the flames of the “my language/tool/OS is better than yours” wars.

    That said, I like Ruby and Python but currently Ruby has the edge, especially with 1.9 available as a development release. Maybe the availability of the new VM will start to address the performance issues everyone loves to complain about…

  8. I’m surprised at the number of Coldfusion followers here, I had no idea it was still an option..

    I’ve been “hacking” in PHP for the last 10 years. I say hacking because I can’t code at all, but I can modify the crap of things to make them work for my purposes.

  9. ColdFusion all the way. Simple but powerful. I really think that’s the way the world of programming is heading. All of these overly complex languages…yeah, they get the job done, but why use them when you can do the same thing in a LOT less time with ColFusion/RoR/Python?

  10. PHP (a _lot_) and (have to admit it, please don’t laugh) LotusScript (somewhat similar to VB), as well as C/C++.

    Will never touch/consider/try: RoR and Java.

    Would like to dig deeper into: Perl and ActionScript.


  11. Using Java and PHP right now (with a fair amount of Javascript in the mix too).

    Hard to say what my favourite programming language would be. C++ could be called my “first love”, and I still love it for its strong typing, which to my mind is an asset and not a liability.

    Certainly prefer Java over PHP. I want to learn Ruby as I think it looks interesting.

  12. @Bill: I’ve noticed that people are usually quite humble when talking about their programming language preferences ;)

    I like Python too, though have only played around with it. I don’t program these days, but I was happy enough with C++ when I did. At least I could do pretty much whatever I wanted with it, object-oriented or not as I pleased.

  13. Bill Bell

    Since no-one has ever suggested that I might be part of a group of ‘humble’ people before I couldn’t resist responding. My favourite is Python (which is not to slight Ruby since I haven’t learned that). If it appears that I might be cornered into using Java then I try to get away with using Jython. :) With some of the lovely new libraries making their appearance I’m coming to like Javascript.

  14. My favorite is whatever my client pays me my hourly rate to develop in. Over the past thirty-plus years, C has been the most profitable, a portable assembly language mostly for systems/real-time work. Despite what folks are saying, I still like Java as a language, although I find its multitude of frameworks are both its biggest strength and weakness. I think the future is in domain-specific languages and multi-language applications, e.g. C for the system and device drivers, Java for the enterprise application layer, and languages like Python and Ruby (neither of which I’ve used) in the user-facing layer.

  15. I code a lot in PHP, but I love Python and Ruby. I know Ruby somewhat better than I do Python, so I use it a (lot) more, but I think they are both fine languages.
    Java … Well, I use it for some things (more because I have to), but I don’t really like it that much.