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7 programming languages that could shake up IT

... Utkarsh Dev:

Do we really need another programming language? There is certainly no shortage of choices already. Between imperative languages, functional languages, object-oriented languages, dynamic languages, compiled languages, interpreted languages, and scripting languages, no developer could ever learn all of the options available today.

And yet, new languages emerge with surprising frequency. Some are designed by students or hobbyists as personal projects. Others are the products of large IT vendors. Even small and midsize companies are getting in on the action, creating languages to serve the needs of their industries. Why do people keep reinventing the wheel?

The answer is that, as powerful and versatile as the current crop of languages may be, no single syntax is ideally suited for every purpose. What's more, programming itself is constantly evolving.

Experimental programming language No. 1: Dart

Like JavaScript, Dart uses C-like syntax and keywords. One significant difference, however, is that while JavaScript is a prototype-based language, objects in Dart are defined using classes and interfaces, as in C++ or Java. Dart also allows programmers to optionally declare variables with static types. The idea is that Dart should be as familiar, dynamic, and fluid as JavaScript, yet allow developers to write code that is faster, easier to maintain, and less susceptible to subtle bugs.

You can't do much with Dart today. It's designed to run on either the client or the server (a la Node.js), but the only way to run client-side Dart code so far is to cross-compile it to JavaScript.

Experimental programming language No. 2: Ceylon

Gavin King denies that Ceylon, the language he's developing at Red Hat, is meant to be a "Java killer." King is best known as the creator of the Hibernate object-relational mapping framework for Java. He likes Java, but he thinks it leaves lots of room for improvement.

Among King's gripes are Java's verbose syntax, its lack of first-class and higher-order functions, and its poor support for meta-programming. In particular, he's frustrated with the absence of a declarative syntax for structured data definition, which he says leaves Java "joined at the hip to XML." Ceylon aims to solve all these problems.


Experimental programming language No. 3: Go

Interpreters, virtual machines, and managed code are all the rage these days. Do we really need another old-fashioned language that compiles to native binaries? A team of Google engineers -- led by Robert Griesemer and Bell Labs legends Ken Thompson and Rob Pike -- says yes.

Go is a general-purpose programming language suitable for everything from application development to systems programing. In that sense, it's more like C or C++ than Java or C#. But like the latter languages, Go includes modern features such as garbage collection, runtime reflection, and support for concurrency.

Experimental programming language No. 4: F#Functional programming has long been popular with computer scientists and academia, but pure functional languages like Lisp and Haskell are often considered unworkable for real-world software development. One common complaint is that functional-style code can be difficult to integrate with code and libraries written in imperative languages like C++ and Java.

Enter F# (pronounced "F-sharp"), a Microsoft language designed to be both functional and practical. Because F# is a first-class language on the .Net Common Language Runtime (CLR), it can access all of the same libraries and features as other CLR languages, such as C# and Visual Basic.

Experimental programming language No. 5: Opa

Web development is too complicated. Even the simplest Web app requires countless lines of code in multiple languages: HTML and JavaScript on the client, Java or PHP on the server, SQL in the database, and so on.

Opa doesn't replace any of these languages individually. Rather, it seeks to eliminate them all at once, by proposing an entirely new paradigm for Web programming. In an Opa application, the client-side UI, server-side logic, and database I/O are all implemented in a single language, Opa.

Experimental programming language No. 6: Fantom

Should you develop your applications for Java or .Net? If you code in Fantom, you can take your pick and even switch platforms midstream. That's because Fantom is designed from the ground up for cross-platform portability. The Fantom project includes not just a compiler that can output bytecode for either the JVM or the .Net CLI, but also a set of APIs that abstract away the Java and .Net APIs, creating an additional portability layer.

There are plans to extend Fantom's portability even further. A Fantom-to-JavaScript compiler is already available, and future targets might include the LLVM compiler project, the Parrot VM, and Objective-C for iOS.


Experimental programming language No. 7: Zimbu

Most programming languages borrow features and syntax from an earlier language. Zimbu takes bits and pieces from almost all of them. The brainchild of Bram Moolenaar, creator of the Vim text editor, Zimbu aims to be a fast, concise, portable, and easy-to-read language that can be used to code anything from a GUI application to an OS kernel.

Owing to its mongrel nature, Zimbu's syntax is unique and idiosyncratic, yet feature-rich. It uses C-like expressions and operators, but its own keywords, data types, and block structures. It supports memory management, threads, and pipes.