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Why is Python so Popular?

Despite several widely acknowledged flaws, Python remains one of the most popular development languages worldwide. The sole fact that for years Python had two different and incompatible versions existing in parallel should have spelled the end for Python given the numerous alternatives available in the market. But Python overcame this conflict.

Developers also criticized Python’s design and functionalities. Python is known to be slow and inadequate at dealing with memory-intensive operations. It also is lacking in its ability to deal with databases, and it suffers from more runtime errors than other languages.

But even in the face of these limitations, Python not only survived but thrived. Indeed, nearly 50% of developers use Python in some fashion, a number exceeded only by JavaScript and HTML/CSS. And just last year, Python was named the Programming Language of the Year in the TIOBE Programming Community Index, moving up from the third spot in 2020.

So why is Python so popular?

1. It has a low entry barrier

The number of new developers continues to rise quickly. Between 2018 and 2021, 3 million new developers entered the market, bringing the total to just under 27 million. Estimates suggest that this number will reach nearly 30 million in the next two years and 45 million by the end of the decade. And Python is extremely friendly for new and inexperienced programmers alike.

What makes Python so simple for novice programmers? First, its syntax is simple and easy to learn. Python is a high-level, object-oriented programming language whose commands are syntactically close to everyday English.

One Python characteristic that simplifies programming is that it is dynamically typed. Dynamically-typed languages do not require programmers to declare variable data types before using them. Developers can therefore use fewer lines of code.

Another benefit of dynamic typing is that it requires indentation (whitespace has syntactic meaning). This enhances the readability of Python code for beginners.

However, dynamic typing is also one of Python’s more criticized features. Because dynamically-typed languages do not perform error checking until runtime (rather than during compilation), they are subject to more runtime errors and can require more debugging.

Python is also popular because it does not require as many additional tools as other languages, so new developers have fewer things to learn before getting going.

2. It’s portable

Cross-platform functionality is crucial in today’s development environment. Python applications are platform agnostic, requiring no modification to run on any of the primary operating systems (Windows, MacOS, Linux, Unix). It is therefore ideal for cross-platform application development.

Python has also become an acceptable alternative for mobile application development. However, because neither Android nor iOS can process Python, developers must use other tools to bridge between Python and mobile operating systems.

3. It’s flexible

Python is useful in a wide range of real-world applications, including:

  • Web development
  • Scientific computing
  • Game development
  • AI and machine learning
  • E-commerce and ERP systems
  • Image processing and graphic design

Python’s broad applicability enhances its popular appeal for developers, particularly less experienced developers.

Python’s flexibility can also be a cost-benefit for small organizations and startups with limited budgets. Developers are in high demand, and salaries can be substantial. Even for freelance backend developers, companies can expect to pay at least $60 an hour on average. The more a single developer can do, the better.

4. It’s interpreted rather than compiled

Python applications interpret code line by line at runtime, rather than requiring pre-runtime compilation. With fewer intermediate steps, developers can more quickly get an application running. And because Python executes line by line, it is easier to identify the source of runtime errors, which in turn simplifies debugging.

5. It’s easy to debug

Python has built-in functionality that makes debugging relatively simple. But there are also third-party tools, like Sentry, that provide far more extensive performance monitoring, tracing, and error handling features.

Basic Python debugging relies on exception handling. During runtime code interpretation, code issues generate syntax and error exceptions which, in turn, may terminate program execution. Developers can then use these exceptions to pinpoint the location of the code error and quickly correct it.

Developers can deal with exceptions proactively by including error handling conditions in the code. Python’s built-in exception handling statements, including try, except and raise to debug code allows developers to raise exceptions, quickly test functionality, and immediately rectify any program errors.

Developers can also insert a temporary print statement to display the values of variables and check them against expected values. If the values are consistent with expectations, developers can then remove the print statement.

Python also has a built-in logging module that monitors program execution and supports debugging efforts. Developers can use the logging module to display warnings and error messages during program execution or output the message to a file for later review. Developers can create logging messages that help them identify where in the code exceptions are arising.

Python also includes a built-in command-line debugging tool, pdb. With pdb, developers can run applications line by line from the command-line and see where output does not match expectations.

Finally, Python has numerous available integrated development environments (IDEs) and software development kits (SDKs) that provide more advanced monitoring and debugging than the logger. IDEs and SDKs give developers the ability to perform line-by-line execution as with pdb, and also conduct remote debugging.

In short, Python offers developers a wide range of simple and effective debugging tools that even the most novice programmers can quickly understand and apply, making Python even more popular and easy to use.

6. It’s open-source (read as free)

All developers like free tools, particularly ones with a large, well-tested and widely adopted feature set. Python is an excellent development alternative for new developers and startups who are extremely cost-conscious. There is no cost to download or use Python, nor are there licensing fees for commercial applications that use Python.

7. It has a robust support structure

Python’s low cost, ease of use and long history have led to the creation of an extensive support community. Python comes with its own impressive library collection, adding functionalities from web browsing to database manipulation to testing to email. And the third-party ecosystem is even larger, with libraries addressing an even broader range of functionalities.

Python also has many popular online communities where developers can seek the assistance of experienced users. The Python community has also created numerous learning resources such as online tutorials, documentation and videos.

8. It easily connects with other languages, frameworks and tools

Python can be easily used with other languages such as C/C++ and Java to build applications. In addition, there are several full-stack and micro frameworks that work well with Python, including Django, BeeWare, Kivy, Flask, Pyramid and Turbo Gears. Interactivity extends the utility of Python as a development tool.

Conclusion

For the increasing number of novice developers, Python provides a simple path into the world of application development. Python’s popularity shows no signs of slowing, and it looks to continue as a language of choice for the foreseeable future.

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