In a more digital world, software developers are likely to find themselves in higher demand than ever before. But in order to stand out from the crowd, it pays to be able to prove that you can keep up with the latest trends and react quickly to where the industry is heading.
This means professionals should always be looking to learn new skills, in particular when it comes to the languages they code in. While the likes of C and Java aren't going away any time soon, there is a wealth of newer options around now that have been designed to solve specific problems or make a developer's life easier.
While some, such as Python and Ruby, have become a mainstream part of many professionals' toolkits, there are many others that are quickly growing, or may not have yet attracted the same kind of attention as the most common names. But used correctly, they can be among the most powerful solutions a business can have.
Why learn a niche programming language?
Not only can niche programming languages help broaden your perspective as a programmer by exposing you to different paradigms and approaches to problem-solving, they can often be more suited to specific tasks than mainstream languages, increasing your efficiency.
Additionally, if you're looking to stand out to certain employers, knowing niche languages can potentially open up unique job opportunities. Plus, it might be a nice challenge (and maybe rewarding too) to learn more about lesser-known areas of your field.
So which niche languages should you be learning in 2023?
One of the biggest IT trends of the past decade has undoubtedly been the emergence of big data analytics. Having access to so many more sources of information can open up almost limitless possibilities for companies that know how to harness them. But coding for applications on these scales may pose a challenge to many traditional solutions.
This is where R comes in. This language has been designed from the ground up for use in statistics, data analysis and graphical representation. As a result, it's become the number one choice for data scientists, so if you're looking for a position in this field, it's an absolute must-have.
There's a bit of a learning curve - as R is a statistical language, its syntax can be complex and unintuitive for beginners, - but if you're looking to visualize data, it's far easier to achieve this in R than in options like Python.
Go was developed by Google to solve many of the most common problems developers might encounter when working on very large-scale systems. Initially designed to cope with the web giant's mammoth infrastructure, it has proved so useful that it is quickly being embraced by large firms all over the world.
In fact, its one of the fastest-growing languages around, climbing from the 54th to the 13th most popular language in 2017. Some of the reasons for this boom in interest is the fact it's very easy to scale for use in multicore environments; something that's not the case for older languages that were developed before the concept of multicore processors hadn't even been invented.
In addition, the language's goroutines feature allows for the execution of thousands of tasks at the same time, while code written in Go is also very clean and easy to maintain, which is a particularly valuable trait for large organizations that will have many software engineers involved in projects, as it eliminates any challenges or integration difficulties that may arise from the individual quirks of each coder.
In an environment where developing for mobile is now a top priority, it's hardly surprising that interest in Kotlin is in high demand. In fact, it was recently listed by Github as the number one fastest-growing language of 2018, with usage increasing by more than 250% in the last year.
A key reason for this is that it makes developing apps for the Android platform faster and easier. It is a highly concise language, requiring fewer lines of code than many other options to achieve the same results and it also has a number of safety features that have been designed to reduce the number of bugs and system failures.
Because it is completely interoperable with Java, any apps already built in Java can be easily migrated to Kotlin. Indeed, the Realm Report suggested that 20% of Android apps previously built in Java prior to Google I/O 2017 are now built in Kotlin. Google itself is also a fan, saying:
"Kotlin is a brilliantly designed, mature language that we believe will make Android development faster and more fun."
Rust has become one of the fastest-growing programming languages around, and it's one that gets a lot of love from those who use it. In fact, one survey by Stack Overflow found three-quarters of developers love working with it, making it the most popular choice of all, ahead of Smalltalk and TypeScript.
So what's all the fuss about? Rust is a relatively new compiled language that's often compared to C, in terms of both its applications and its performance. But the big difference with Rust is that it's memory safe. This means none of the dangling pointers, buffer overflows, or any other kind of memory errors that can often frustrate C developers. In fact, the language makes it impossible to make such errors, as they'll be caught during compilation.
Clojure is a modern, dynamic, and functional dialect of the Lisp programming language on the Java platform. It was created by Rich Hickey and was first released in 2007.
It's designed to be a general-purpose language, combining the approachability and interactive development of a scripting language with an efficient and robust infrastructure for multithreaded programming. It's best-known for its interactive REPL (Read-Eval-Print Loop) environment and its strong support for concurrent programming.
Clojure does have a steep learning curve, especially for those unfamiliar with Lisp or functional programming. However, for those willing to put in the effort, it offers a powerful and flexible tool for programming.
Elixir is a dynamic, functional language designed for building scalable and maintainable applications. It leverages the Erlang VM, known for running low-latency, distributed, and fault-tolerant systems.
Key features include its metaprogramming capabilities, which allow developers to write code that writes code, and its support for concurrent programming. Elixir also provides powerful built-in tools for software testing and debugging.
It's significantly used in web development, notably with the Phoenix Framework, and in building distributed and fault-tolerant systems, thanks to the underlying Erlang/OTP platform. The learning curve might be steep for developers not familiar with functional programming paradigms, but the benefits of mastering Elixir include increased efficiency, scalability, and reliability in your applications.
F# is a strongly-typed, multi-paradigm, open-source programming language developed by Microsoft for the .NET framework. It combines functional, imperative, and object-oriented programming paradigms.
F# is known for its succinct, expressive and type-inferred code. It has strong capabilities for data-oriented programming, parallel I/O, parallel computation, and is often used in the domains of scientific computation, data analysis, machine learning, and web development. Moreover, it has full access to all .NET libraries, making it a powerful language for enterprise development.
ABAP (Advanced Business Application Programming) is a high-level programming language created by SAP. It is primarily used for developing applications for the SAP R/3 system. It's a fourth-generation language (4GL), making it closer to human language compared to other high-level languages. ABAP programs are run on the SAP ABAP runtime environment, and it provides a robust set of testing and debugging tools. Its applications range from business applications and automation to system configuration and optimization.