Which Programming Language to Learn – Web Programming

Ads by Google

programming languagesToday we’re going to take a look at the various web programming languages that power the Internet. This is the fourth part in a beginners programming series. In part 1, we learnt the basic of variables and datatypes. In part 2, we moved onto functions and control structures. In part 3, we had a look at some of the numerous software programming languages. Like last time, I’ve included screenshots of what typical code in the language looks like, which I believe is a good at-a-glance indicator of whether you’re going to be comfortable programming it or not.

PHP

PHP is the undisputed king of server-side languages in use on the Internet today – running on 75% of all web servers – and is the power behind WordPress, Wikipedia, and even the user-facing part of Facebook.

programming languages

As a server side language, the code is processed before it reaches the user’s browser, so all they see is the final page and none of the original PHP code. PHP is mainly used in conjunction with MySQL to pull information from a database, manipulate it and present it to the user.

PHP is general-purpose and comes as standard with most web servers – if you’ve ever heard the term MAMP/WAMP/LAMP, the P generally stands for PHP (the rest is Windows/Mac/Linux, Apache, and MySQL).

MySQL

Another component of standard web server installations, MySQL is a free, open source database server. It’s not a programming language as such, but it is a new language to learn if you want to talk to databases so it’s a key component of modern websites. Although MySQL is actually a command-line language, there are common GUI tools available such as PHPMyAdmin for managing databases more easily.

Again, MySQL is what powers WordPress  – so all your posts and content are actually stored inside a MySQL database.

Ads by Google

web programming languages

Javascript

Not to be confused with Java, the full object oriented software programming language we introduced last week, Javascript is the daddy of interactive webpages. It’s a scripting language that’s run locally on the user’s browser, allowing webpages to respond to user interactions such as clicking on elements and timing events. To cover everything Javascript is capable of would be impossible – suffice to say if there’s something interactive on a site, and it isn’t Flash – it’s more than likely Javascript.

It’s worth mentioning JQuery at this point too. JQuery is a Javascript-framework which lets you write less code and gives you greater browser compatibility, and is quickly becoming the standard for modern webpages. It’s particularly useful for targeting specific parts of a webpage using familiar CSS terms and doing something with them, such as showing or hiding them. Although JQuery is made from Javascript, it introduces its own unique language components too, so just because you know Javascript doesn’t mean you can automatically use JQuery (you could also argue that you don’t need to know much Javascript to be able to use jQuery). We’ll definitely be looking at this one at some point.

web programming languages

Perl

Perl used to be a major force in web programming but has since been relegated to mostly just text-processing applications. It’s incredibly fast at processing text, but not of much use on the modern Internet. It’s something that all hackers have in the box of tricks though, so it’s worth checking out at some point.

To give you an idea of the power of Perl, here’s the complete code that was created to crack DVD encryption. Yes, it is rather cryptic:

web programming languages

Ruby

Ruby, and its web application framework Ruby On Rails, powers some pretty major websites such as Groupon, Shopify (a commerce platform), and the front-end of Twitter. It’s a full object oriented language that’s interpreted by the server and then sent as a finished HTML page to the browser – much like PHP (yet also completely different, *sigh*). It has a number of key advantages though, namely in rapid development, less code repetition, and speed.

web programming

Unfortunately, most web servers do not support Ruby out of the box, so unless you’re able to configure your own server as you wish, you need to use a hosting service such as Heroku.

Python

Python is another full object-oriented high-level strongly-typed language. Adjectives used to describe Python typically include fun, easy to use, and a good learning tool – but ultimately there’s very few real-world Python web applications. It certainly sounds like a good place to start though, especially if you’re the kind of person who’s into Linux and open source / community-driven projects. Just don’t expect to be making any actual webpages with this, and there appears to be a rivalry with the Ruby community.

web programming

ASP.net

This is Microsoft’s contribution to the web language arena, predictably popular in corporate environments and nowhere else. It’s closely integrated into the .Net family, and you need specific Windows hosting to run ASP.net web applications, which in my experience is far more effort than it’s worth. Stay away from this one unless you have a really good reason not to.

programming languages

So, Which Should You Learn?

If you want to create a modern, interactive website, I suggest a combination of PHP, MySQL, and possibly JQuery/Javascript for interactivity. That’s not to say the languages such as Ruby and Python aren’t worth investigating as a learning exercise – which we certainly will be doing at some point – but if your time is limited and you seriously want to start learning useful real-world skills then the PHP/MySQL combo is the best place to start.

If you think I’ve missed something, then feedback and reader contributions are always welcome in the comments.

Join live MakeUseOf Groups on Grouvi App Join live Groups on Grouvi
Internet Meme Origins
Internet Meme Origins
18 Members
Hacker Groups
Hacker Groups
69 Members
Internet Crimes
Internet Crimes
32 Members
Internet Piracy
Internet Piracy
14 Members
WWW Fact or Fiction
WWW Fact or Fiction
11 Members
Ads by Google
Comments (106)
  • Dave Ball

    these days i’m also hearing a lot about people using clojure to develop for the web. the advantage being that ti runs of the JMV so enterprise all ready invested in a JEE architecture can realise the benefits without having to wipe out its investment

  • Dave Ball

    These days i would suggests people look at Node and specifically some of the newer frameworks like meteor.

  • Mircea Prodan

    I agreed with James Bruce. I love Python (version 3.x; version 2.x do not like). It is the best language to learn to programming. I make few desktop applications but NOT web applications. I am a hobbyist. I learn the fundamentals (date type, variables, conditional, functions etc and I try to understand OOP). After that, I learn to make a website in Django framework with a big help from “Documents” Django website pages and a excellent tutorial named “Django Girls”. Ok, I agreed, it is not to hard, is very logical and is beautiful to work in (except Regular Expresion ). The problem (BIG problem!) is to deployng (implement) a Python web application on a real server!!!! It is a nightmare!! Step after step after step…It is very, very, very annoyng thing. GAE?! Hmm…Is a little deprecated because is for Python -v2.x… Heroku?! For a begginer is too hard, excuse me (Terminal commands, virtualenv setup etc ).
    On the other hand in PHP (which is not simple as you think… in fact do not exist a simple programming language..), you can have a FUNCTIONAL WEB application in minutes, localy (on localhost) or on real server…
    Last but not least is about the server price. I am from Romania – excuse me for my english way… :) – and for a common LAMP server I pay 1.90 euro/month. For a Python website, my hosting make me an “ofer” for dedicate server with … 29 euros/month!!! Ha! Ha!… You are kidding or what?! I think the Python web solution is for snobs with a lot of money….
    I’m not a PHP advocate, but for a begginer to start with this language is the best solution.
    P.S. I think I know a big website wich use Python language: washingtonpost.com. But is one of the biggest newspaper in the world, no?

  • Andong Alain

    Common guys to start up ,I will say to construct a website we need html, css, JvaScritp these are client side “actors” for the server side I am stuck on which to use please guidance I also know using JvScript will mean understanding at least one of its libraries like JQuery
    Plesae Ignore my first comment above :(

    • Dave Ball

      Use JavaScript for it all by Using Node.js or one of its many frameworks like meteor, strongloop or ember2.
      for the database side i’d look at No Sql like MongoDB the default database in meteor or if you want to try graph neo4j if you go to their neo4j.com website just now there ate some free ebooks on using the technology. also there are free courses for both mongoDB and Neo4j or their websites as well.
      I’d say getting MongDB certified would be a goof career move.

  • Andong Alain

    Common guys to start up ,I will say to construc a website we need therese are client side “actors” for the server side I am stuck on which to use please guidance I also know using JvScript will mean understanding at least one of its libraries like JQuery

Load 10 more
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.