Is JavaScript the First Ever Dominant Programming Language?

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Well into its third decade of use, JavaScript continues to grow in popularity. It lies at the heart of popular programming frameworks – like React.js – used in both web and mobile development. One tech leader feels this venerable language is rapidly becoming the dominant one in the software development world.

Let’s take a closer look at JavaScript’s dominance – perceived or not – within the programming community. What are some of the reasons behind its seemingly never-ending popularity growth? Perhaps these insights offer some food for thought for your own team’s software engineering efforts.

Network Effects help JavaScript grow in Dominance

Anil Dash, the CEO of Fog Creek Software (maker of Glitch), column for Medium, where he posits that network effects are driving the growth of JavaScript. Dash feels the days of the lone wolf programmer are long gone; in essence, they’ve now become “networked.” In the modern era, developers sometimes end up collaborating with each other all over the world. This is likely yet another outgrowth of the open source movement.

Dash notes a variety of reasons for this change in programming style. Websites like Stack Overflow serve as a valuable source for tips and tricks of the software engineering trade. In fact, new frameworks tend to grow in popularity in tandem with how much they get discussed on Stack Overflow.

The social aspect of GitHub provides another means for developers to collaborate and commiserate. Finally, Dash highlights a few online developer news sites, like Hacker News, that let programmers better learn the practice while networking with each other. All of this leads to “software being evaluated based on its social success and social merits, rather than just some ostensibly “objective” technical merit.”

So how does the increased networking of the developer community lead to JavaScript becoming the dominant programming language? For one, JS is flexible enough to allow virtually any application to be written in it. Dash feels the capability lies at the heart of its network-driven dominance.

The Many Tentacles of JavaScript

JavaScript is now essentially a network and/or ecosystem unto itself, according to Dash. Everything from popular frameworks like Node.js and React.js to useful variants like TypeScript relies on the programming language. When you consider anyone using a web browser is also running a JavaScript interpreter; well, simply look up ubiquitous in the dictionary.

Stack Overflow’s user data also reveals the dominance of JavaScript. 70 percent of the site’s users include JS among their currently-used programming languages. This percentage of users is only trending upwards, and Dash feels this takes JS closer to its escape velocity. He wonders if one now needs to consider JavaScript as a kind of social network.

What a dominant programming language means for the development world is interesting to ponder. “We just might be on the precipice of an era in coding that’s unprecedented, where we might actually see something new in the patterns of adoption and usage of an entire programming language. That potential has us excited, and waiting with bated breath to see how the whole ecosystem plays out,” says Dash.

There’s no denying that JavaScript continues to wrap its tentacles around many different platforms and applications. Ultimately, any modern developer needs to become an expert in the language in addition to the rest of their skill set.

Thanks for reading this edition of the Betica Blog. Keep coming back for additional dispatches on the software development world.   

React.js gets a Fresh Update

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With Facebook’s founder testifying to the U.S. Congress, in unrelated news, the company’s React.js UI library for JavaScript recently received a new update. Version 16.3 of React provides a host of new features for developers hoping to add some efficiency to their web applications. If you are interested in downloading it, the update is available on Facebook’s own GitHub repository.

If your team isn’t using React, check out our previous articles covering it and its mobile variant, React Native. What follows is a high level overview of React version 16.3. News about the new update appeared in InfoWorld, among other sources.

A Look at the New Features of React.js 16.3

The main changes in the updated version of React involve improved management of the component lifecycle, as well as a new API to help developers better deal with context in their application. These new component lifecycles include: getDerivedStateFromProps and componentWillReceiveProps, which gives programmers a safer option than using the legacy versions. Another one, getSnapshotBeforeUpdate, safely handles the reading of properties before performing an update.

Some lifecycles are receiving an “unsafe” prefix to warn developers not to use them. Runtime safety isn’t the issue as much as the likelihood of deprecated functionality and subsequent incompatibility with future versions of React. In short, they are warning you about potential future bugs. Another reason for this is providing a “heads up” to engineers maintaining open source applications using React.

Facebook engineer, Brian Vaughan commented on what led to this new lifecycle functionality. “A few days ago, we wrote a post about upcoming changes to our legacy lifecycle methods, including gradual migration strategies. In React 16.3.0, we are adding a few new lifecycle methods to assist with that migration,” said Vaughan.

Another option involves using the new StrictMode component. This serves to identify any unsafe legacy lifecycles when running in development mode. It also warns about other side effects from using older lifecycles and React functionality. Expect additional features to be added to this component in future updates.

The New React Context API adds Efficiency

In addition to providing a boost in efficiency, React’s new Context API allows for static type checking and deep updates. Data is able to be passed through a component tree without the manual inclusion of props. The old API is expected to still work for a few more versions, so start updating your code to use to new one.

Facebook cautions about overusing the new API. “Don’t use context just to avoid passing props a few levels down. Stick to cases where the same data needs to be accessed in many components at multiple levels,” said the social network’s development team.

Other fresh features in React 16.3 include a new API for managing refs, called createrefAPI. This lets programmers access DOM nodes or React elements derived from the render process. The forwardRef API facilitates code reuse by help devs use higher-order components for this purpose.

Since React is effectively becoming a standard for UI development in web applications, we hope this look at its latest version provides some insights for you and your team. As always, thanks for reading the Betica Blog. We hope to see you again very soon!

GitHub Analysis reveals the Changing Face of Programming Language Usage

One obvious constant in the technology industry is its rapid pace of change, and the practice of programming offers no exception to this rule. What was once a popular language at the turn of the century might hardly get used for applications today. On the other hard, new programming languages seem to appear on a monthly basis.

Data from the source code repository, GitHub, offers a window on this changing face of software development. Let’s look more closely at their analysis to check the latest trends in programming language usage. Perhaps these insights might be of use in your own team’s development efforts?

393 Different Programming Languages at GitHub – in One Year!

GitHub boasts 4.5 million users who maintain around 10 TB of source code at the repository. Incredibly, those development projects are written in 393 different programming languages. Even more impressive is that data only represents one year of GitHub usage statistics!

Those numbers have only increased since the original July publication of an article by Waren Long at the source{d} blog used as a reference for this post. Another interesting point is their analysis doesn’t even include JavaScript, one of the most widely used languages, because of GitHub users’ propensity to refer to popular libraries, like Node.js or React.js, as a project’s language instead of JavaScript.

Long’s methodology for determining programming language is quite detailed, so refer to the link in the previous paragraph for additional insights, if interested. 

The Current Most Popular Programming Languages on GitHub

There are few surprises listed among the most popular languages currently in use at GitHub. Python and Java rank at the top of the list, with a popularity percentage of 16 and 15.3 respectively. That doesn’t necessarily mean both languages have more lines of source code stored in the repository. That honor lies with PHP, even though it only ranks at #5 on the popularity scale.

Other languages in the top 10 include the venerable, like C, C++, and C#, along with relative upstarts like Ruby, Objective-C, and Go. Apple’s newer programming language for iOS applications, Swift, rounds out the top 10. A related analysis adding in Google search queries to the GitHub data notes that Go is currently the “hottest” programming language.

Moving from One Language to Another

The original source{d} blog article also looked what languages programmers are transitioning into over time. This is useful information for both individual developers as well as software development shops. For example, many Visual Basic developers eventually transition into C#, which isn’t surprising for programmers working primarily on the Microsoft technology stack.

PHP developers, on the other hand, tend to move into Java, Python, or even C#. Python’s current popularity is confirmed by the fact that 24 percent of programmers working in the five other most popular languages — Java, C, C++, PHP, and Ruby – eventually work with Python. The “walled garden” nature of Apple platforms is revealed by the high percentage of programmers switching between Swift and Objective-C for project work.

Ultimately, anyone working as a programmer or a manager of software development needs to dive into the source{d} analysis of GitHub’s data. It’s truly fascinating.

Keep coming back to the Betica Blog for additional insights from the software development world. Thanks for reading!