The backend serves as the backbone of software development — and a programming language is one of its most vital components.
However, there are currently hundreds of programming languages, making it confusing for new programmers to decide what to use.
To help narrow down your choices, we’ll talk about the best programming languages to learn for backend development.
The 9 Best Programming Languages to Learn for Backend Development
Below, we’ve listed the top languages that backend developers should consider learning:
1.) Native iOS Swift
Swift is a native iOS language developed by Apple Inc. It’s a general-purpose scripting language that lets a developer build ANYTHING.
While it can be used for full-stack development, it’s still convenient even if you’re using it just for backend development.
The program offers impressive code readability since it resembles the English language.
Another thing that makes it easily readable is the conciseness of the language. This means Swift has fewer lines of code, allowing for a faster development process and better scalability.
This language also has automatic memory management, meaning it can handle coding vulnerabilities (like the “use after free” coding error) on its own.
However, Swift is still relatively new. Because of that, it still has LIMITED native libraries and tools developers can use for their projects.
Apple is also still working on the language’s backward compatibility with its older versions.
- Simple and concise code
- Easy to scale
- Has automatic memory management
- Limited native libraries and tools
- Lack of backward compatibility with older Swift versions
2.) Native Android Kotlin
Kotlin has been the official language for Android mobile app development since 2017. However, it’s also a GREAT fit for backend development
It’s a general-purpose, open-source programming language that covers Java’s weaknesses — which Java developers will surely appreciate.
Kotlin has concise and expressive code that lets you build easy-to-use (but powerful) abstractions. It also supports type-safe builders and delegated properties.
It’s fully compatible with Java frameworks, too, and supports gradual migration for Java codes.
This means you can start using Kotlin while still keeping the rest of your system in Java.
Despite that, you might notice that Kotlin has a fluctuating compilation speed, so you likely WON’T get the clean builds you’re used to with Java.
- Interoperable with Java
- Supports gradual migration for Java code
- Compilation speed could still be improved
Dart is a dynamic object-oriented programming language developed by Google. It’s NORMALLY used for frontend interfaces in mobile apps and web development.
However, it’s one of the best backend languages for Flutter developers. That’s because Flutter allows for a fast development cycle for iOS, web, and Android platforms.
Another thing that makes it beginner-friendly is its ability to help you identify errors early on. The Dart compiler also ignores blank characters, tabs, and line breaks for a more readable structure.
The compiler also allows for different forms of code execution (namely on a native and web platform).
Dart is REACTIVE, thanks to its fast generational garbage collection and object allocation.
Unfortunately, it’s not one of the best programming languages for text-heavy web pages. It also has a relatively small support community and limited resources.
- Simple but powerful
- Allows different forms of code execution
- Limited resources
- Not the best for text-heavy websites
PHP is a WELL-ESTABLISHED open-source scripting language used to create interactive and dynamic websites. In fact, it’s perhaps the most used backend language, both in and out of web development.
The language offers excellent code execution performance thanks to its memory utilization. This gives PHP a boost in performance and processing speed.
It’s an INCREDIBLY flexible language as well. That’s because it’s interoperable with many other programming languages and frameworks — such as HTML, Python, Laravel, and CodeIgniter.
In fact, you can use PHP to add functions to web pages without the need for external files.
PHP also has excellent cross-platform compatibility, letting you work with ALL operating systems.
A new PHP developer will find it very easy to learn. In fact, it would be one of the easiest backend programming languages you can learn.
However, PHP is maintenance-intensive as it lacks advanced error handling and debugging tools. Because of this, it’s not good for large backend web development projects.
- Easy to learn
- Fast performance
- Not the best for large web applications
Java is one of the most popular programming languages known for its use in desktop applications. However, this object-oriented programming language is also used for IoT, big data, gaming consoles, and web applications.
This language is also one of the most secure ones available. That’s thanks to factors like removing explicit pointers and using public encryption keys for authentication.
Java is VERY flexible.
For one, it’s multi-threaded, letting the computer execute multiple tasks simultaneously.
It’s also platform-independent. But while other languages (like C#) are independent because of Common Language Runtime, Java lets backend developers execute one script on different operating systems.
What’s even more impressive is that Java 8, in particular, lets you execute a script in different languages!
However, Java isn’t the most beginner-friendly. That’s because it requires significant memory to process code and has NO backup functions.
Because of JVM functions and garbage collection, it also tends to be slow.
- Huge community support
- No backup functions
- High memory consumption
It’s forgiving to beginners but is also very useful in website development.
The language is impressively fast, thanks to the fact that it runs the code within the browser rather than relying on third-party sources.
But perhaps its best feature is asynchronous processing — which lets different code blocks be processed at the same time, effectively improving the code’s efficiency too.
- Dynamic data
- Asynchronous processing
- Needs more debugging support
- Varying browser support
Structured query language, or SQL, is the most common backend language for relational database management systems — such as Microsoft SQL Server and MySQL.
That means it can be used for tasks like retrieving or updating data on a database.
Because of what’s required from SQL, it’s impressively efficient in handling large amounts of data. Coding skills aren’t needed for data retrieval either, so it’s very user-friendly.
Relational database tables are EXTREMELY structured, letting SQL be ACID-compliant. ACID properties pertain to the Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, and Durability of transactions.
However, this rigidity also makes scaling SQL-based database platforms expensive.
The language also has a steep learning curve, partly because of how complex query structures can be.
- Doesn’t require coding skills
- ACID compliant
- Expensive to scale
- Steep learning curve
Python is a high-level programming language that has impressive code readability.
It’s an open-source language used for data analytics, machine learning, and web development.
There’s a very active community of Python developers that provide libraries and resources.
Python is excellent for data-sensitive projects since the language regularly sanitizes data and deletes anything delicate from outer sources.
The language is also VERY easy to learn since it was created to have a syntax that’s as close to English as possible. In fact, even without basic knowledge of any programming language, you can learn it in as fast as two months!
Despite that, Python needs a large memory capacity to do advanced tasks like deep learning algorithms. It’s still slow in processing code compared to other languages.
It’s also better suited for web applications rather than mobile apps.
- Very easy to learn
- Great community support
- Slow in processing code
- High memory consumption
You might know Ruby as Ruby on Rails.
However, Ruby is the language, while Ruby on Rails is a powerful backend framework.
As a language, Ruby has been designed to be a user-friendly general-purpose language. In fact, it’s one of the easier programming languages to learn.
It’s very useful for tasks like web development, automation, and web scraping.
Like other scripting languages, Ruby doesn’t directly talk to the hardware. Instead, it has to be written in text files and run through an interpreter before it becomes code.
Despite that, it’s VERY flexible. For one, it lets you mix classes and modules — which is easier to use and maintain compared to inheritance.
Ruby is also extremely secure thanks to in-built properties that lets the language itself protect an application in cases of attacks.
- Extremely secure
- Very flexible
- Slow performance
- Limited community support
What Is Backend Development?
Backend development, also known as server-side development, connects the frontend of any interface with technologies like web servers and other third-party services.
Backend technology is also responsible for things like business logic, data collection, and cookie reception.
As such, a backend developer will need to:
- Write code for APIs
- Manage databases and data models
- Create software architecture
- Implement server-side scripting
- Ensure communication protocols
This side uses a backend framework or server-side languages for faster development. Of course, backend developers will need to work with frontend developers, architects, and project testers to ensure that this “data access layer” works well.
What Are the Types of Backend Development?
A backend language can either be a functional or an object-oriented language.
We’ll differentiate the two below:
Object-Oriented Programming (OOP)
OOP essentially represents stored data through objects — and these objects can be manipulated by using different methods or functions.
There are four characteristics that make up OOP:
- Abstraction – This hides some of an object’s properties and methods to make it easy to make changes to the program.
- Encapsulation – This is essentially when you group related variables and functions into objects.
- Inheritance – This is when an object gets (or inherits) some of another object’s properties and methods.
- Polymorphism – This refers to when objects respond to the same function in different ways.
These characteristics make programming with OOP languages quite convenient.
Unfortunately, the main downside is that the structure becomes INCREASINGLY complex as your script becomes longer.
Functional Programming (FP)
As opposed to OOP, which turns data into objects, FP does not change the state of data. Instead, data is immutable — meaning the only way to change a value is to make a new variable.
Other characteristics of FP include:
- First-class citizens – Functions support all other generally-available operations since they can be:
- Passed as an argument
- Stored in a variable
- Returned from a function
- Pure functions – Pure functions essentially don’t have side effects, improving a program’s execution time.
- Recursion – This makes a code simpler and more robust by avoiding mutable objects.
Backend Development vs. Frontend Development: What’s the Difference?
Frontend development deals with the user-facing side of web apps or any other project. These developers are in charge of ensuring that visitors will be able to interact and navigate the interface EASILY.
Frontend developers are also responsible for the visual aspects of a project.
Meanwhile, backend development is called server-side programming since it deals more with the project’s structure, system, data, and logic.
Because of that, backend developers need to design databases, security measures, data-processing mechanisms, and others.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Backend Programming Language for You
There’s no one best programming language that will do well in all projects. However, there are ARE programming languages that can be better in certain situations than other languages.
As such, below are some factors to consider regarding which backend languages are best for you:
The first thing you should think about is what you’re using the language for.
If you’re working on web development, then you can pretty much choose ANY language.
But not every language is suited for mobile applications, including Python. However, Python is excellent for machine learning and deep learning algorithms.
Other products like IoT, booking systems, and network programming would also require different languages and stacks.
#2 Size of the Project
Web development with many functions will have different needs from simple apps.
Another thing you should keep in mind here is whether you’ll be upscaling in the future. If the answer is yes, then you should look for a more flexible stack, such as Swift.
If you’re handling relational database management systems, you’ll have to decide right from the start how big the project is since scaling SQL is expensive.
SQL is the most loved programming language for that kind of project, so it might be hard to look for a cheaper (but still reliable) alternative for that.
#3 Other Components of Your Stack
Backend developers need to collaborate with other people who are working on the same project. Alongside that, backend programming typically comprises two or more languages.
Because of that, you want to ensure that the backend languages you use are compatible with each other and the rest of the stack.
For instance, Objective C is a pretty outdated language already.
But if you need to improve or scale a project that uses Objective C, you can still use the same language or use Swift. That’s because Swift has great interoperability with Objective C.
Swift, just by itself, is already excellent for full-stack development.
Some programming languages are open-source and free, drastically reducing costs. Some examples are PHP, Python, and Java.
However, other languages are licensed and paid — and rates also differ depending on the scale of your project.
Aside from that, the costs don’t end when you’re done with the app or web development. Instead, you’ll also need to maintain, update, and possibly upscale your project.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you have more questions on backend programming languages, we’ve answered a few below:
Which Is the Most Powerful Backend Language?
Java is a very powerful language since it’s simple while also being secure, economical, and supported by a HUGE community.
However, there’s really no single most powerful language that works with ALL backend technologies.
Which Is the Easiest Language for Backend Development?
PHP can be regarded as the easiest backend programming language. In fact, you can learn it within a week.
Python is also one of the easiest backend programming languages, with beginners being able to learn it in as little as two months.
Is Backend Coding Harder Than Frontend?
It CAN be harder depending on your skill set and experience.
We’ll list down a few reasons why either part of software development is difficult.
Backend coding can be harder than frontend because:
- It has a steeper learning curve.
- It’s not as visual as frontend.
- It requires more knowledge of arithmetic.
- Backend web development gets harder the more the website expands.
Meanwhile, frontend coding can be harder than backend because:
- You need to learn more principles, such as UX, design, and programming.
- It requires more tools.
- Testing is more rigorous than the backend.
- The frontend landscape is rapidly changing with new tools and trends.
With so many programming languages out there, it can be hard to choose which you learn to start your backend programming career.
Python and PHP would be two of the easiest languages to start, but you can also consider the other backend programming languages on this list.
While not every one of them is easy, they’ll certainly be very useful since the demand to have them on developers’ skill sets is high.
23 November 2022
23 November 2022