Software

Why Python is so popular with developers: 3 reasons the language has exploded

Python is the fastest-growing programming language in the world. Here's why it's a good choice for those who want to learn to code.

Python is the fastest-growing programming language in the world, as it increasingly becomes used in a wide range of developer job roles and data science positions across industries. But how did it become the go-to coding language for so many tasks?

"Python is very popular because of its set of robust libraries that make it such a dynamic and a fast programming language," said Kristen Sosulski, clinical associate professor of information, operations, and management sciences in the Leonard N. Stern School of Business at New York University, and author of Data Visualization Made Simple. "It's object-oriented, and it really allows for everything from creating a website, to app development, to creating different types of data models."

Python has the best claim to being the fastest-growing major programming language right now, said Stack Overflow data scientist Julia Silge. Developer Stack Overflow visits to Python have grown very quickly, she added: This year, it became the most visited programming language in the world on the site.

SEE: Hiring kit: Python developer (Tech Pro Research)

The rate of growth is high across industries including academia, manufacturing, electronics, finance, energy, tech, and government, Silge said. It's not shrinking in any industry, she added.

"The rise of Python is linked to businesses understanding that they are generating all this data all the time, and if they either train people internally or hire people who have these skills, they can use that data to make better decisions, and it can help their businesses thrive," Silge said. "It's a great first programming language to learn, and also it is a center of one of the most impactful trends driving how businesses are adding value to what they're doing right now."

Here are three reasons why Python is currently dominating the programming space.

1. Ease of learning

Python is consistently ranked as one of the easiest programming languages to learn, and is known for its high reliability and simple syntax, which are a draw for new coders in particular.

"Python is the closest language to what I call 'an instant gratification language,' meaning with very little code, it can accomplish so much, even if you are a novice programmer," said Karen Panetta, an IEEE Fellow and Dean of Graduate Engineering at Tufts University. "This is because Python reads like English, which makes it more conducive for a broad level of user audiences to learn. Many of the 'nerdy' low-level details we used to worry about in other languages, such as declaring types of variables or arguments, are handled by Python, so it makes programming very flexible and easier to use than other languages."

2. The explosion of AI, machine learning, and data science in the enterprise

Growth in Python use has been fastest among data scientists, and particularly those working in machine learning, Stack Overflow found. "According to the data that we have, the patterns of visits that we see people using Python for data science is what is behind the really dramatic rise in the use of Python," Silge said.

"We see almost a renaissance because Python has proven to be very, very useful for folks that are doing the artificial intelligence or machine learning type of things," said Forrester vice president and principal analyst Jeff Hammond. "There's some very good framework. You've got some nice tools for data scientists, or folks that aspire to be data scientists."

You can also Python for DevOps, system scripting, web development, and data science, Silge said. "You can use it to do almost anything," she added.

SEE: IT Hiring Kit: Programmer (Tech Pro Research)

3. A large developer community

Python is used in a wide number of applications from AI, to video games, to productivity tools. "Since it has enjoyed a wide dissemination and acceptance across many disciplines, it now has a huge developer community," Panetta said. "There is an abundance of open source Python libraries available that can most likely achieve what you need to help solve your problem."

Python "has a healthy, friendly community around it, including, for example, communities built for those who are underrepresented in tech," Silge said. For example, PyLadies is a worldwide organization for women and other gender minorities interested in coding in Python.

The language's flexibility does bring some disadvantages, Panetta said: Python may not be as fast as other interpreted languages like Java, but it takes less time to develop than Java, and many people are willing to accept that trade-off. And as Python apps grow or become more complex, it could impair scalability and the ability to diagnose errors easily.

However, "the user community is so large, that anyone encountering any coding problems can quickly find the solution by simply posting a question or searching for the answer on a Python developer community site," Panetta said.

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/scyther5

About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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