Top 10 Backend Programming Languages

Backend technologies are indispensable in the creation, running, and management of modern apps. In fact, selecting the right backend can make a difference between app development projects’ success or failure. That is why businesses of all sizes and IT decision-makers need to research the best backend for their project right from the planning phase. 

The right backend technology enhances hassles -free app operations by improving speed, scalability, and app responsiveness.  However, sieving through the options to select the best backend for an app project can be challenging. That is why we streamlined the top 10 backend technologies in this article. We hope it would help you select the best backend for your project faster. 

First, let’s talk about backends. 

Whats’s an App Backend?

In the programming world, the backend refers to the computer codes that handle server-side operations such as server logic, database functions, and many more. When you use an app, the vast majority of the data you send and received are managed by the application backend. However, the functions of the backend are entirely invisible to the app user. 

What’s a Programming Language?

In layman’s terms, the programming language is a set of commands and digital instructions that use specific syntaxes to create computer apps. These programming languages are categorized as follows:

  • High-Level Programming Language

This type of language writes codes with words and symbols commonly used in daily conversations. That is why high-level programming language codes are easy to read and examine.

  • Low-Level Programming Language

This type of programming language consists of machine languages and assembly languages with peculiar instructions. Unlike the high-level programming language, they write complicated codes that are difficult to read. A program called assembler translates assembly code to machine code that the CPU understands but unintelligible to humans. 

10 Leading Backend Programming Languages Worldwide

There are many backend technologies in the world today, each having its strengths and weaknesses. However, for the sake of this article, we have streamlined the best ones for app projects.  

JavaScript

For close to a decade, JavaScript has emerged as the most popular programming language in the StackOverflow Annual Survey.  In the recent 2020 Developer Survey, 69.7% of the respondents choose JavaScript as the most widely used programming language.

JavaScript is no longer just a client-side scripting language because technologies like Node.Js allow you to perform server-side operations. Node.js depends on the server-side frameworks called Express.js to create a platform that enables developers to write codes that execute on the server. 

Once the Express.Js is up and running with Node.Js, developers can use JavaScript as both frontend and backend development language.  It also offers an application programming interface (API ) for creating various apps, including mobile, hybrid, web, single, and multi-paged applications. 

Features

Fast Development: Given that the same language is used for both frontend and backend development, programmers can create web and mobile apps faster with JavaScript.

Fewer Scripting Overhead: Some built-in features of JavaScript, such as DOM and hoops, enhance coding efficiency and improve performance and lesser scripting overhead. 

Lean Backend Technology: JavaScript uses backend platforms like Express.js that serves as a middleware for resolving several development challenges. They provide various functions like POST data, suture headers, error handling, HTTP request logger, and many more. Moreover, JavaScript’s programming rules are less strict, giving developers more freedom to work with their preferred middleware. 

Cut Costs: JavaScript efficiency reduces the programming efforts and costs required to develop apps. Since the same programming language is used to create both frontend and backend codes.

Opensource Advantage: Having a vibrant community that supports programming technology is essential for its continuous improvement. Fortunately, JavaScript and its backend counterparts are opensource platforms with active communities of backend and frontend developers that drive continuous innovations.

I/O Features: The robust nature of Express.js and Node.js allows it to handle tons of I/O requests and notifications from connected apps. 

Limitations

  • The JavaScript backends’ event-driven functions are somewhat complicated, causing developers with experience in other platforms to misinterpret callbacks. This challenge has been mostly resolved in the latest versions. 
  • Many programmers using JavaScript server-side development do not understand how middleware works.
  • Hosting JavaScript’s backend frameworks with MySQL database is complicated.
  • Some developers think that the standard design approach to development  is preferable to the freedom that the unopinionated JavaScript backend frameworks offer.

Python

Since Python was created in 1991 by Guido van Rossum, it has grown to become one of the leading multi-purpose programming languages in the world today. Backend developers leverage it’s neat and highly readable codes to create functional scripts for handling backend assignments. 

A 2020 survey by Stack Overflow revealed that it’s the top backend programming language that developers hope to learn. Python has topped that category for four years consecutively. It also rated 3rd among the most loved programming languages in existence. 

Features

Relatively Easy to Learn: One of Python’s benefits is the English-like coding style that makes it highly readable. So coding and reading Python codes is relatively easy for new and experienced programmers. 

Huge Libraries: Python enjoys the support of huge libraries that reduces the need to write codes manually. Some libraries contain codes that enhance tasks like email, browsing, database assignments, unit testing, and lots more. 

Cost-Efficient: Apart from Python being a freely-downloadable opensource platform, it also offers numerous free tools and resources that enhance app development projects. 

IoT Features: Developers can leverage the modern features of Python to create Raspberry Pi physical objects. 

Embeddable Codes: With the Write Once Run Anywhere (WORA) rule, the python code can be embedded into the source code of other languages such as C++.

Limitations

  • The execution of Python code becomes slow when it’s interrupted. This shortfall hurts the entire app development project.
  • Python database access layer is less developed compared to other backend programming languages. 
  • Extensive testing is required to detect errors and bugs within Python codes.
  • It is highly dependent on third-party frameworks and libraries. 

Ruby

Ruby was developed in 1990 by Yukihiro Matsumoto, a Japanese computer expert. The programming language that shares similar syntax with Python, Java, and Perl has also emerged as one of the leading backend technologies today. It is a popular platform for developing web applications and is preferred by most developers for prototyping. 

Some of the leading online platforms such as Shopify, Airbnb, and Etsy use Ruby to automate backend tasks. The object-oriented, flexible, and scalable features make it a preferred platform.

Features

Highly Productive: Ruby is highly productive for performing backend assignments due to it’s high code readability and many 3rd-party libraries. Developers can access all the tools they need within Ruby; they hardly need to reference external documentation.

Meta-Programming: Ruby supports metaprogramming, which allows a program to acquire data from other programs and modify itself while running. Along with other tools such as macros, scripts, and introspection, expedite app project delivery in Ruby.

Massive Library: Ruby can take advantage of several third-party modules available at RubyGems.

Testing Features: Ruby is equipped with a massive library containing several testing and automated features that enhance high-quality product development.

Fast and Reliable: Backend scripts can be created faster with Ruby compared to other scripting technologies.  Object-oriented programming methods make Ruby more resilient and excellent for making queries and processing outcomes. It can develop codes 40% faster than many other scripting languages. 

Limitations

  • The runtime of other scripting languages is relatively faster than that of Ruby.
  • Despite having an opensource community, Ruby has limited sources and libraries.
  • Ruby is new compared to other programming languages; existing backend developers find it challenging to learn. 
  • Ruby codes are challenging to debug.

PHP

PHP was developed by Rasmus Lerdorf in 1994; since then, PHP has evolved into one of the world’s leading server-side programming languages today. In fact, a survey by W3Tech shows that over 79% of websites globally are powered by 

Features

PHP is a multi-purpose programming language that is easy to use. It works perfectly with a wide array of databases and operating systems.  Modern frameworks, a massive codebase, and the active PHP community are factors that drive the continuous evolution of PHP.

Open Source and Versatile:  There are many free PHP libraries online that developers can leverage to quickly develop backend codes.  Almost all operating systems, such as Windows and Linux, support PHP. Besides, PHP also apps can be launched on any web server.  

Inexpensive: PHP is freely available and enjoys the support of a vibrant community of developers. Hiring a PHP developer is not expensive. The 2020 Stack Overflow Developer Survey on top-paying technologies rated PHP in the second to the last position. 

Easy to Use: Many PHP frameworks have emerged that simplifies programming, negating the need to write tedious SQL codes.  Some of them use the Object Relational Mapping (ORM) system that works like the model-view-controller (MVC) for quickly writing server-side functions.

Excellent for Beginners: The simplicity of PHP makes it an ideal language for new developers. They can get up and running quickly due to the short learning curve.

Automating Functions: The scripting feature of PHP makes it useful for creating automation such as authentication, URL mapping, session management, and many more. 

Built-In Security: While many people think PHP is insecure, it has lots of built-in security features that allow you to mitigate several threats.

Limitations

  • The influence of PHP as a development technology is waning. Nowadays, people hardly include PHP in their development skills.
  • PHP cannot compete efficiently with modern development technologies like Ruby and Python due to limited libraries.
  • As an opensource platform, PHP is susceptible to misuse and the creation of buggy codes. 

Java

The 2021 TIOBE index ranks Java second place among backend development technologies today.  This ranking indicates that  Java is one of the most influential programming languages today. James Gosling invented the programming language in 1991, but it wasn’t until 1995 that Sun Microsystems published it.

Over the years, Java has emerged as the choice platform for developers that prefer to create web apps with custom and innovative features. Java is also useful for mobile development and apps in embedded devices. 

Features

Scalable and straightforward: Java Enterprise Edition is useful for creating scalable apps by allowing the server to run several instances. Java components are readily available, and the syntax is easy to understand. All these features make it outstanding as a backend development technology. 

Multi-Threading: Java is capable of handling requests in independent threads on a multi-threaded web server. That is why Java performs excellently with applications that require massive CPU power.

Massive Opensource Libraries: Developers can leverage massive opensource libraries to expedite server-side development tasks. Some of these libraries include unit testing, excel, messaging, JSON Parsing, and lots more. 

Enhanced Security: Java is known for its tight security; it provides several features that mitigate security risks. For instance, the Java Virtual Machine checks the java bytecodes to keep viruses at bay. Other features that enhance security are the Java security model and the testing of reusable code. 

Limitations

  • Java programming is expensive and time-consuming.
  • Low-level programming and command for garbage collection are conspicuously missing.
  • The high cost of hardware requirements makes implementing java-powered backends expensive.
  • Swing toolkit, the Java GUI development app, lacks the intriguing interface of other trendy GUI tools.

C# .NET

One of the most popular programming languages for backend development is C#, commonly called C-Sharp. It does an excellent job in coding automation on Windows servers and web platforms ( using ASP.Net framework.) C-Sharp, which is more or less an extension of C++, has been around for a long time.

C# finds extensive application in desktop application development and embedded systems as well. It executes code faster than most programming languages. C# has been used to create Unity-like platforms for game development and for creating CLI applications. 

Features

Cross-Platform Development: Apps with C-Sharp backends can run on multiple operating systems such as macOS, Windows, Linux, etc. This article on cross-platform frameworks discusses cross-platform development further. 

Object-Oriented Advantage: As an object-oriented language, C# code makes use of classes and relationships. This approach allows reusability of code snippets and easy code troubleshooting.

Extensive Compatibility: C# apps features backward compatibility with legacy systems. For instance, organizations that are still using older versions of programming frameworks would find C# priceless.

Garbage Collection Feature: C-Sharp has a feature that purges out all system garbages. This is a great feature that expedites program execution.  The best part is that the system continues to function optimally during the garbage collection procedure.

Limitations

  • As a high-level programming language, the C# code cannot talk to the hardware directly.
  • C# is highly rigid compared to other backend technologies because it only runs on the .Net Framework and can only be installed and run from a Windows computer.

Perl

Larry Wall developed Perl over three decades ago, and the general-purpose scripting language is still waxing strong today. In fact, a recent developer survey by Stack Overflow rated Perl as the top-paying programming language worldwide. Not surprisingly, another study by the same company ranked Perl among the top-3 most feared programming languages.

While Perl might seem to be an ancient language, Perl 5 is still widely used for automation and prototyping.

Features

Works on Multiple Platforms: Perl works on multiple operating systems, including Mac, Windows, Linux, and Unix.

Open-Source: Just like other opensource backend programming languages, Perl provides several libraries. However, you may have to pay little “copying charges” to access the libraries.

Extensibility and Embeddable: Perl can leverage TWIG and XS to support C and C++ external libraries. Perl codes can also be embedded in C and C++ programs. 

Text Processing Functions: The text-processing capabilities of Perl is superb. The recent version of Perl still maintains the POSIX compliance and retains the same advanced features for processing socket calls. 

Limitations

  • Fixing bugs and isolating infectious data in Perl is challenging.
  • The processing of Perl is not as superb as other high-performance alternatives.
  • The available libraries in Perl lack advanced features.
  • Perl finds it challenging to handle extensive codes.
  • It is lagging in speed and scalability features.
  • Hiring a Perl backend engineer is costly, being an old language that new developers no longer want to learn.

C++

C++ is basically the C programming language with several additions. For instance, C++ introduced object-oriented programming by adding “classes” to its programming archetype. Modern programming languages have adopted object-oriented programming as a standard because it helps programmers write structured codes by outlining relationships. 

This programming language is one of the oldest in existence. As a low-level programming language, it can interact with system hardware directly. That is why developers use it to create apps for operating systems, gaming devices, databases, embedded systems, and many others. 

Features

It’s Portable: One of the top features of C++ is its platform independence. C++ applications work across different operating systems, hardware platforms, and embedded systems.

Object Programming Advantage: C++ creates more value by supporting object-oriented programming, which is not supported by the C language. Developers find it easier to use C++ due to its structured programming archetype.

Excellent Memory Management: With C++, developers can manage memory allocation more efficiently because it gives absolute control over memory management. 

Low-Level Language: As a low-level programming language, C++ can interact with system devices. That is why C++ is used for programming most hardware resources. 

Limitations

  • C++ ability to interact with hardware is also a shortfall with the technology and its backend. A malicious user can exploit this loophole to interact with the system’s hardware.
  • C++ lacks an automated garbage collection utility that filters unnecessary data.

Kotlin

Kotlin gained popularity in recent times given its adoption for creating apps by JetBrains in 2011 and later by Android Studio. It is gradually taking over from Java as the dominant platform for building Android apps. Recent data shows that over 60% of Android apps were created with Kotlin, which interoperates seamlessly with Java. It is arguably one of the most popular platforms for mobile development. 

Features of Kotlin

Concise Code: Compared to other programming languages, developers write fewer codes to accomplish app tasks.

Simple Code Maintenance: Developers can quickly read and edit code, thanks to the concise nature of Kotlin code.

Java Interoperability: Kotin works seamlessly with Java. There is no need for migrating code from Java to Kotlin or vice-versa. Developers can call Kotlin code from Java or call Java code from Kotlin to add more functions.

Limitations

  • Kotlin variables and functions do not have primitive types. This deficiency would be challenging for programmers who are used to primitive types in other languages.
  • The lack of primitive types makes the tasks of managing variables and function output problematic.
  • Kotlin compilation for Android apps is slower compared to Java.

Scala

One of Scala’s unique features is the creation of concise code by combining functional and object-oriented programming. Developers also have access to a vast array of JVM and JavaScript runtimes for creating high-performance apps. Scala is interoperable with Java because it is also powered by JVM. Coders can even combine both languages to develop unique solutions. One of the features that make Scala outstanding is it’s support for static types. It takes the hassles of static types from the developer.

Features

Concise Coding: The coding methods of Scala is object-oriented and functional. This feature makes the Scala codes straightforward and easy to maintain.

Java Interoperability:  Scala works with JVM, making it is completely compatible with the Java programming language. So, whether the code is written in Java or Scala, it will output the same result.  That is why Java developers find Scala useful for backend development.

Easy Maintenance: The concise nature of Scala code makes it easy to maintain because it is highly readable. Therefore developers can work on a third-party code without hassles.

Limitations

  • The approach of Scala to coding is entirely different from conventional Java programming methods.
  • Scala combines functional and object-oriented programming, which is a bit challenging for some developers.

Conclusion

This article has presented the top backend programming technologies in the world today. We arrived at our list by referencing authoritative resources such as the web technology survey of W3Techs,  Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2020, and the TIOBE Index 2021. We hope this article will help you choose the best backend technology for your app project.

FAQ

What are backends?

In the programming world, the backend refers to the computer codes that handle server-side operations such as server logic, database functions, and many more.

What are the leading backend programming languages?

– JavaScript
– Kotlin 
– Scala 
– Perl 
– C++
– C# 
– Java
– Python
– Ruby 
– PHP


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