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My top 3 programming languages to learn in 2023

Fahim ul Haq 42

What are your plans for 2023?

This time of year can feel saturated with talk of resolutions. But the changing of the calendar is still a good opportunity to take stock of our personal and professional goals.

If you’re looking for a goal for 2023 to help you advance as a developer, here’s an idea to boost your career and keep your skills fresh: learn a new programming language.

Learning new languages is a central part of being a developer. It provides new opportunities and keeps our work interesting. Adding a language to your toolkit could help you in your current role, open new doors, or inspire your next passion project.

Now, picking one language might seem hard, given the number of options. But ask yourself:

  • What languages would help me upskill in my role or land my dream job?
  • What languages are in demand?

You can look at rankings of languages’ popularity, but that still leaves many choices. Perennial favorites like Python and JavaScript might be on your radar. These languages remain as in demand as ever.

But I’m going to make the case for three relative newcomers that developers who want to position for the future should keep on their watchlists: Go, Rust, and Kotlin. They were among the most wanted technologies in last year’s Stack Overflow Developer Survey, and each has captured my personal curiosity for reasons I will explain.

Source: https://survey.stackoverflow.co/2022/#technology

Let’s take a closer look at each.

1. Go (Golang)

Go is an open-source, higher-level language developed at Google and first released in 2012. It’s in the top 20 most popular languages in the RedMonk and TIOBE Index rankings.

With Go, you get:

  • A standard library
  • Package management
  • Static typing
  • Support for testing
  • Platform independence

If I were creating Educative from scratch today, I would love to work with Go. Given my background in C/C++, it would have been easier to transition to the static typing of Go than to learn Python. But Go wasn’t as mature back then as it is today. More importantly, Google Cloud and the Google App Engine didn’t support Go when we started building Educative. They supported Java and Python, and we chose Python for its combination of functionality and ease of learning.

However, I don’t recommend Go simply because I like statically typed languages. Let’s drill deeper into its many useful attributes.

Go supports concurrency out of the box

Go’s built-in support for concurrency separates it from other popular programming languages. It’s the main reason I recommend Go.

Other programming languages were developed before multi-core processors and hyperthreading. Back then, the biggest innovation in operating systems working on single processors was time slicing, in which each thread got its own tiny sliver of time. If you play music while surfing the web on a single-processor machine, your OS will divide time between those tasks.

Eventually, we started seeing hyperthreading, and after that, multiple cores in the same processors. That changed how developers wrote code. Now they had multiple processors at their disposal to handle tasks simultaneously. The multithreading models of older languages had to be retrofitted to exploit the power of the new hardware. Not Go. It was the first programming language to embrace concurrency from the start.

In fact, for developers, concurrency in Go is easier to implement and faster than in any other major programming language.

Go is secure, efficient, and fast

On top of supporting concurrency, Go offers other goodies.

  • To avoid the memory leaks of C++, Go’s creators took the job of memory management away from developers. (Memory safety is a feature I love about Rust, too, as I’ll discuss later.)
  • Go executes native code, but it runs in a small runtime, enabling efficient and fast garbage collection.
  • As a compiled language, like C and C++, Go is faster than Python and more efficient than Java.

Learn Go with Educative

If I’ve persuaded you to give Go a look, consider checking out the Skill Path Golang for Programmers on Educative. I touted this Skill Path in last week’s newsletter, too, because it teaches both basic and advanced concepts such as error handling, networking, templating, and concurrency.

It also offers brain teasers and puzzles to refine your critical thinking and problem-solving skills. After finishing the four modules, you’ll be able to write efficient and practical applications with Go.

If you’re already familiar with Go or have the programming background to pick it up quickly, check out the new course Grokking Coding Interview Patterns in Go. Designed to teach you the essential patterns underlying coding interview questions, this course provides hands-on practice while saving you from drilling endless problem sets. Even if you’re not looking for a new job, it’s always a good idea to keep your interview prep skills sharp.

2. Rust

My interest in Rust will be familiar to regular newsletter readers, who might recall my recent story about coming around to Rust.

As a reminder, Rust is:

  • An open-source, cross-platform language.
  • Strongly and statically typed, which lets you catch errors during compilation rather than runtime.
  • Supported by a great package management system called Cargo.
  • Good at eliminating common sources of bugs and security vulnerabilities found in traditional compiled languages.
  • Backed by a large and welcoming community that helps learners find answers quickly.

The developer community is ardent about Rust. RedMonk and the TIOBE Index rank it in the top 20 popular languages. Meanwhile, respondents to the 2022 Stack Overflow survey identified Rust as their most wanted technology, alongside Python.

It’s not just a popularity contest, either. Rust’s safety and security features have spurred a tech industry shift toward adopting the language as a mainstream substitute for C and C++.

Rust is safe, secure, and high-performing

As a longtime C++ programmer, I had to come around to Rust. Its focus on security is what convinced me of its merits.

In C++, developers have free access to memory. This can bring about buffer overruns and stack overflow vulnerabilities. But with Rust, strong memory safety features preclude these kinds of mistakes.

That means developers see fewer serious security issues and waste less time debugging.

Rust is also high-performing. That’s because of its high security standards — it’s harder to make mistakes — and its low-level code. Rust can match C or C++ in speed, if not surpass them. Rust also does better than Go, Java, and Python.

Rust is for all levels

I stand by my claim that Rust is worthy of consideration even if you’re just starting out as a developer. Despite being a low-level programming language, Rust is remarkably easy to read and write. In contrast, the syntax of C and C++ does not abstract away low-level details, making code in these languages efficient but harder to parse as a human. (I still think C++ is worth learning because of its prevalence.)

If you’re an experienced professional developer or manager, you should still consider learning Rust. It can save you time and effort, and if you know C or C++ already, Rust’s similar syntax can make it relatively easy to pick up. Finally, learning Rust might help you stay ahead of the competition, as more companies are using Rust in production.

Learn Rust with Educative

The Become a Rust Web Developer Skill Path is a newer offering that will teach you the basics, test your knowledge with 24 puzzles, and introduce you to building the front-end and back-end of web applications with Rust, as well as database integrations.

If you’re totally new to the language or programming altogether, I’d steer you toward the course The Ultimate Guide to Rust Programming. It focuses on Rust fundamentals, making it a great introduction to variables and arrays of various data types, loops, conditional statements, and more advanced language features.

3. Kotlin

With all the attention on Go and Rust, I’m not exactly going out on a limb recommending them. By comparison, Kotlin might seem like a bit of a dark horse. But don’t get me wrong, this open-source language developed at JetBrains enjoys some well-deserved buzz.

That’s largely thanks to Google’s 2019 announcement of Kotlin as the preferred language for Android operating system development. Of course, Google may have been thinking about more than Kotlin’s capabilities.

You might recall Google’s U.S. Supreme Court victory over Oracle in April 2021. The justices found that Google didn’t infringe on Oracle’s copyright of Java SE when it used Java APIs while developing its Android mobile platform for app developers. This ruling capped off more than a decade of litigation between the two companies, starting when Oracle sued Google in 2010. (By the time of the Supreme Court decision, Google had created a “clean room implementation” for Android to be compatible with Java without using its code.)

While this context is important, Kotlin is more than a Java alternative, and Google isn’t the only major player to recognize that. Companies and platforms that use Kotlin in production include:

  • Netflix
  • Uber
  • Slack
  • Evernote’s Android client
  • The Spring Java platform
  • Atlassian’s Trello app for Android
  • Gradle, an open-source build tool
  • Corda, an open-source distributed ledger platform

Increasing industry adoption means increasing demand for Kotlin developers, but there are other reasons to learn this language.

Kotlin is versatile

Kotlin is one of the few programming languages that can be used for server-side, mobile/Android, and front-end development. That’s right, Kotlin allows you to use one language for full-stack development.

Kotlin also allows you to choose different programming paradigms, depending on your needs. You can create classes and write object-oriented code in Kotlin as you would in Java, but with much less boilerplate code, making it more streamlined. In fact, JetBrains developed Kotlin to be completely interoperable with Java, so you can use Java libraries and frameworks in Kotlin, and vice versa.

The imperative programming style generally dominates in the mainstream world, and Kotlin supports it. But you can also use the functional programming style, which has the benefits of being less complex, more expressive, and concise. In addition, you can write code for scripting in Kotlin, like you would in JavaScript or C. Finally, Kotlin lets you create asynchronous programs using coroutines, which is essential if you use cloud services or deploy your application as a microservice.

Kotlin is clean and secure

I mentioned that Kotlin is less verbose than Java. That’s because it embodies a “less is more” philosophy requiring less boilerplate code, resulting in less maintenance and fewer errors to fix. Kotlin has other features that make it clean and fluent, like synthesizing some code instead of making you write it and deeming the semicolon optional.

Beyond its relative elegance, I like that Kotlin surpasses a lot of other statically typed languages by offering more compile-time safety. For one thing, it distinguishes nullable types from non-nullable types. In addition, Kotlin embodies the strong type inference of languages like Scala, F#, and Haskell. Kotlin saves you from entering certain type details that are otherwise apparent, but it also requires enough specificity to make code type safe.

Learn Kotlin with Educative

Ready to try Kotlin yourself? A good starting place is Kotlin Crash Course for Programmers. In this course, you’ll pick up a solid understanding of the fundamentals of Kotlin and build up to writing simple scripts and applications.

Kotlin’s interoperability with Java is one of its selling points. If you have moderate knowledge of Java and the JDK, I recommend The Ultimate Guide to Kotlin Programming, a course designed by our partners at Pragmatic Programmers. It moves from fundamentals to advanced topics, culminating with building an Android application that communicates with a back-end service.

Upskill your 2023

Starting the new year with a commitment to learning is a great investment in yourself. Hopefully, I’ve inspired you to learn one of these three programming languages!

If learning is on your agenda, be sure to take advantage of Educative’s end-of-2022 sale. Time is quickly running out to secure significant savings on Educative Premium, which lets you access 600+ courses, projects, and Skill Paths crafted by industry experts. That covers all of the resources I’ve mentioned in this newsletter.

As a reminder, consider the following resources:

Happy learning in 2023!

This post is from originally Grokking the Tech Career, a free newsletter available on Substack from Fahim ul Haq, the CEO and Co-founder of Educative, the world’s best learning platform for software developers.

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