We’ve all heard about open source software and open source programming languages at some point in our lives. However, do you know what the term actually means?
“Open Source” basically refers to a platform or product that can be accessed by anyone and everyone. Open-source allows you to access, analyze, and tweak the source code for the purpose of enhancing it.
Similarly, an open-source programming language is one that falls within the open-source protocol, that is, it can be accessed and modified by the public.
Today, programmers have an array of options when it comes to open-source programming languages. For a programming language to be considered open-source, it has to fulfil the following criteria:
- The source code must be accessible by all.
- The integrity of the source code must be maintained.
- It should allow free distribution and redistribution.
- It should allow free distribution of licenses.
- Its license should be technology-neutral and should not restrict other software.
- It should not discriminate between persons/groups and also against any field of endeavour.
Now that we know what an open-source programming language is, let us look at some of the most widely used open-source languages as well as the advantages and disadvantages each brings.
Java programming language
Java is undoubtedly one of the most popular open-source programming languages among programmers. It is a highly class-based and featured object-oriented language. Today, Java forms the core of various web and mobile applications across a wide range of operating systems and devices.
- Easy to write, compile, and debug.
- Excellent for developing modular programs and reusable code.
- It is platform-independent, both at the binary and source levels.
- It is not speed-intensive and hence, can be very time-consuming.
- It is an interpreted language.
- Lacks support for low-level programming languages.
Python programming language
Python is a versatile programming language that anyone can master with a little dedication and effort. It was developed by Guido van Rossum back in the 1980s and is controlled and managed by the Python Software Foundation. It is used by developers around the world as a scripting language allowing them to generate readable and functional code in a short span of time.
- It comes with readable and simple syntax.
- It can be interpreted in many operating systems owing to its portability, such as Unix, Windows, and Mac OS, to name a few.
- It supports both object-oriented and procedure-oriented programming.
- Lacks pre-packaged solutions.
- Lacks adequate GUI tools.
- Not ideal for memory-intensive functions.
Developed by Yukihiro Matsumoto in the ’90s, Ruby is an object-oriented programming language that has gained huge traction over the past few years. The best thing about Ruby is its neat, clean, and simple syntax that makes it the ideal programming language for beginners. Today, Ruby along with the Rails framework is being used by reputed names such as Airbnb, GitHub, Basecamp, and Bloomberg.
- It facilitates easy inheritance of features from standard classes.
- Offers a clean object hierarchy thereby making metaprogramming very convenient.
- Comes with a provision of open classes.
- It allows you to write codes from any line or column.
- Backed by a relatively small community.
- Processing can often be quite slow.
- Lacks regular updates.
Over the years, PHP has emerged as one of the most developer-friendly open-source programming languages. It is much faster than many other programming languages, and that’s primarily why PHP-based solutions are today being used by developers, entrepreneurs, and SMEs around the globe.
- Offers cross-platform compatibility. Can run on platforms such as Linux, Windows, Mac OS, and Unix.
- Comes with pre-defined error reporting constants.
- Allows the generation of dynamic page content.
- Is a loosely typed language so you don’t need to explicitly declare the data type of variables.
- Lacks named parameters.
- Not ideal for very large projects since it is less modular.
- The language semantics can only be altered by global configuration parameters that can pose complications during deployment.
Perl is a mature, stable, and highly feature-rich programming language. It is an excellent choice for scripting and processing large projects. Also, it is backed by a wide community of developers. It runs successfully on over a hundred platforms!
- Excellent file manipulation.
- Supports cross-platform usage. Thus, codes written for a specific platform can also be run on other platforms with minimal or no modifications.
- Comes with a library of modules.
- Can be slower for specific tasks such as scripting.
- Poor argument handling.
- Poor usability factor.
Frequently Asked Questions
Open source programming languages are the languages which follow the rules and the paradigms of open source software. The developer community contributes features and fixes the bugs making the language stronger.
Python is an open-source language since it is available for the developers to contribute in, modify and suggest enhancements and fixes.
To classify something as best, you need to define your use case. All the languages mentioned in the article – Java, Python, Perl, PHP, Ruby have their separate use cases and developers use all of them for different projects.
Google has over 2000+ projects including Android, Flutter, Dart, Chromium etc, which are open source. Google believes the more the community gets involved, the more will the technology prosper.
To conclude, each language has its distinct benefits and disadvantages.
Depending on the kind of project you will be working on, you can choose the open-source programming language that best suits your project requirements.