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6 emerging programming languages career-minded developers should learn

Paul Rubens | June 6, 2014
If you want to take your pick of the plum jobs of the future, you need experience in the languages that will be in demand. Learning one of these six will put you ahead of the pack.

If you're a developer looking to increase your employability, then learning a new language is always a good strategy. But the big question is this: Which language should you learn?

A quick glance on any developer recruitment site tells you which common programming languages are in demand. Take a look right now and you see plenty of vacancies for programmers with skills in programming languages such as Java, C, C++, C# and Objective C, scripting languages including Python, PHP, Ruby and JavaScript, and database programming in SQL.

If you want to stay ahead of the pack, though, and be able to take your pick of the plum jobs of the future, then it may be worth looking beyond Java, Python and these other languages.

What about gaining skills and experience in up-and-coming languages that aren't in demand yet - but may well be soon? It's a career strategy that worked for programmers who spotted the potential of Java when it was introduced in the 1990s. Those who got in there early could walk in to any Java programming job they wanted a few years later - and demand the very highest rates as well.

The problem is picking the right language to learn, as there are plenty of new ones to choose from. "Almost all new languages are coming from open source projects," says Mark Driver, a research director at Gartner. "That means there are no barriers to entry, so thousands of new languages are coming on to the scene. Most disappear quickly, and only a few ever catch on."

Driver says he believes the reason is that, for most organizations, the "incumbents" such as Java, C++ and C# are just too entrenched to replace, "and there's very few enterprises that want to expand the languages they use too much."

But the signs say a few new languages are catching on. Here are six of the most promising ones, in no particular order:

Dart: Replacement for JavaScript
Dart is an open source language developed by Google as a replacement for JavaScript. Like other JavaScript replacement languages such as CoffeeScript, it's not hard for JavaScript developers to learn. It's significant because it has been designed to make it easy to build large scale, multi-developer Web apps - something JavaScript itself isn't really suited to.

Right now, Dart applications can run in Chrome's built-in Dart VM or in other browsers through cross compilation to JavaScript.

Why learn Dart? Google's backing ensures that Dart has a good chance of succeeding.

Opa: Simple, Secure Web Apps
Opa is designed to make developing Web applications simpler and more secure. How? Instead of creating browser-side, server-side and backend database components in different languages (perhaps JavaScript, PHP and MySQL ) and connecting them together, you write the whole application in Opa. The compiler then creates the client and server code and builds the communications infrastructure between them. Clever.


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