Computer Science

Which Language Should an Aspiring Web Developer Use?

Which Language Should an Aspiring Web Developer Use?
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Cho S. Kim profile
Cho S. Kim August 4, 2014

Is it possible to choose a single best programming language for young web developers? We think have the answer, and you might find it surprising.

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Many aspiring web developers will seek counsel on which language they should learn. The answers, based on the articles that are available on the Internet, are rarely definitive.

The sage advice for a reader is to learn any of several languages, such as Java. These types of answers circumvent the original question and do a disservice to the person who asked the question.

(Check This Out: A Brief Description of the 10 Most Popular Programming Languages)

In this article, I will try to provide a genuine answer to this question. My answer, in turn, is simple and unequivocal: aspiring web developers should learn JavaScript.

Truth in a Proposition

I will use three propositions to explain why JavaScript is the best language to learn for an aspiring web developer. A proposition, in this context, is a statement that holds a truth-value: true or false. All of the propositions in this post are true.

# Proposition #1: JavaScript is the only language that can be used on every stack of a web-based application

Let’s imagine that a web-based application has three stacks: client, server, and database. I’ve created a table that displays which of the 10 most popular programming languages of 2014 can be used on each stack. (If many of these programming languages are unfamiliar to you, a short description for each language is provided here)

!Most Popular Programming Languages

Learning each stack with JavaScript decreases the amount of time involved with human context switching. A developer can focus, in other words, less time on the different implementation details of a language and more time on desired functionality. Considering the fundamental differences between a functional language (i.e., JavaScript) and a class-based language (e.g., Ruby), the ability to decrease context switching is invaluable for new developers.

Some aspiring developers may have the intention of working on just one stack. This choice seemingly removes any concerns that involves context switching. The profession of web development, however, involves developers to work on a codebase where some interaction with and knowledge of each stack is expected. Since JavaScript is the only language on the list that can be used on the client, the need to understand a functional language is inevitable.

# Proposition #2: JavaScript is the only dynamic language that web browsers natively support

Modern web browsers extend a privileged status to JavaScript: native support. This means that a developer who knows JavaScript can open a web browser and immediately write code, test code, and debug code. All of this happens without any installation thanks to native support.

Web browsers are unlikely to supplant their support of JavaScript with another language, at least in the foreseeable future. In the world of web development, the longevity of a language is usually uncertain. Find solace in the fact that JavaScript will remain useful if you decide to learn it. The same claim cannot be made of other languages, regardless of their current popularity.

# Proposition #3: JavaScript is required for building dynamic web-based applications

Dynamic web-based applications, compared to static web-based applications, can change the content on a webpage without fully reloading the page. What I’m describing frequently occurs this way: a user-based action — such as moving a mouse or clicking a key on a keyboard — triggers an event that updates a part of a webpage. Consider how many web-based applications include this type of behavior. You will then realize that I’m describing all modern web-based applications.

JavaScript is the only language capable of adding this type of behavior to a web-based application. This undeniable truth is the reason why many popular languages and their corresponding web application frameworks automatically include JavaScript in their codebase. Ruby on Rails, a very popular framework for building web-based applications, includes JavaScript in the form of a JavaScript library called jQuery.

JavaScript is regarded as the language of the Internet for a reason.


Aspiring web developers can learn one of many languages. This point is made clear in the numerous articles written on this topic. What’s less clear is which specific language these developers should learn.

In this article, I’ve attempted to answer this question with a candid and unequivocal answer. Some developers — especially those whom know a language other than JavaScript — may disagree with me. If you’re faced with conflicting information regarding this topic, remember this final statement: I’ve presented my answer with propositions.

Questions or feedback? Email

About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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