The best open source programming language

Is Perl, PHP, Python, or Ruby best? Do Java and JavaScript count?

When we started working on the Bossies, we divided the broad Application Development group into many subcategories, including Language. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Then we wondered whether it was fair to compare system-level programming languages with scripting languages. We went on to wonder whether various individual languages qualified as open source. It's clear that Perl, PHP, Python, Ruby, and Tk/Tcl are open source languages; it's not so clear whether Java and JavaScript are. Is it enough for a subset of a language to have an open source repository and an ECMA (European Computer Manufacturers Association) or ISO standard, or should we consider only languages that are completely open source and have community-driven development cycles?

Finally, we realized that there probably is no such thing as a "best" language, be it a natural language or a computer language. The most we could do would be to pick best languages for specific applications, and even that would be difficult. It left us to identify languages that have become widely supported and perhaps acknowledge languages that have found a strong niche.

In that spirit, let us acknowledge the vibrancy of the growing Ruby community, especially as applied to the Web via Ruby on Rails. Ruby itself is an elegant object-oriented language with support for sophisticated programming constructs, including closures. Further, Ruby has broken out in a big way this year, with new versions for Java (JRuby) and Microsoft's Dynamic Language Runtime (IronRuby). Unless these variants begin to introduce language differences, these dual ports promise to make Ruby the new widely accepted scripting language.

Let us also acknowledge that JavaScript/ECMAScript is the de facto standard language for programming Web clients. While alternatives are beginning to emerge, JavaScript is still the primary language for creating interactive client-side user interfaces for Web applications, and it's one of the essential pillars of AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML).

Is JavaScript pure open source? If you stick to the ECMAScript subset, absolutely. In real life, however, client-side Web applications usually need to use the extensions to JavaScript and the DOM of individual browsers, whether the browsers are open source or proprietary. Many open source implementations of JavaScript are available for pure scripting, such as Rhino. The richness and performance of the JVM make it an ideal platform for development of new languages, and features in Java 6 and the upcoming Java 7 make such languages even easier to implement. As a result, a new crop of innovative languages is coming up: Groovy, a high-level Java superset released in January; Scala, which combines features from several distinct programming philosophies; and of course JRuby.

This year saw the release of GPLv3, the latest version of one of the most important open source licenses. Its development has led to spirited debate and reexamined what it means for a project to be open source. Is Sun's slow release of Java source code or the availability of an unsanctioned open source implementation of .Net sufficient? Like many folks, we don't take an absolutist perspective. We use the tools that work, and we celebrate open source communities for creating so many useful languages and development tools - and for making them widely available at no cost.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martin Heller

InfoWorld
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?