The choice of programming language could be a dilemma for novice as well as an expert. It is a subjective decision and hence the confusion could further increase if the comparison begins based on multiple factors. ‘Programming’ and ‘Coding’ are two terms used interchangeably; however, there is a thin line difference if thought carefully. Knowing how to code does not necessarily mean one knows how to program. Coding can be considered as a subset of Programming. Having knowledge of syntax and language structure enables to code; however, programming is the ability to convert an idea into an innovative solution. Programming is the ability to solve a complex problem by coding, analyzing, implementing algorithms/ data structures etc. to shape up the solution. A beginner or novice might lose interest in programming if the language is too complex to understand. Various programming language concepts like object oriented, syntax, variable, loops, iterations, dynamic memory allocation, exception handling etc. might be very perplexing for a beginner. However, this article would aid in making the decision simpler or at least throw light on certain aspects which could help in making the choice easier.
Java and Python – two industry leaders – one choice! Choosing one development platform among top two industry leaders ~ nothing less than a plight! Programming language is a core part of software and the choice of it depends on multiple factors which cannot be ignored. Python is older than Java in terms of their existence. Python has been around since 40+ years, while Java has been with the community since 30+ years. However, when IT was in boom, it was Java which rooted well and became the most popular development platform to be used in significant organizations. Python slowly entered the race with constant improvements, and as something better was coming in the market to understand its potential, it started booming and finding its position in the list of top programming languages. Both the languages do their jobs amazingly well, however certain microscopic features differentiate them from each other. The current market trends and statistics showcase Python trending as compared to Java in the recent years. The TIOBE Index (Fig 2) and Google Trends (Fig 3) clearly showcase the trend. Let us try and understand the reason behind this trend.
Java is high-level programming language. It is an object-oriented language similar to C++. It is platform independent and follows the principle of write-once-run-anywhere. It has strong community support, cross-platform support. Python, on the other hand, is dynamic and general purpose programming language. It is desirable for rapid application deployments and drastically reduces the cost of maintaining programs. Both Java and Python have standard sets of libraries available for programming support. When it comes to code syntax and structure, Java is statically typed whereas Python is dynamically typed. This adds feather in the cap for Python, as it makes it easier for beginners by bringing the language closer to English. Going deeper, it is important to see the feature wise comparison of both the languages to make the judgement;
- JAVA: Fig 4 summarizes the features of JAVA as elaborated below,
- Platform Independent and Portable: Java uses Java Virtual Machine (JVM) to run the complied byte code. This makes it platform independent as any machine which has JVM can run the complied code irrespective of the platform. The portability feature is due to the transfer of byte code to any platform.
- Object Oriented: Java completely follows the OOPS paradigm. It’s complete support towards encapsulation, inheritance, polymorphism, abstraction etc. make it an object oriented language. It adds to advantages like modularity, reuse of code and flexibility for the programmer.
- Multi-threaded: This feature is in-built in Java. The concept deals with sharing common memory space; thereby improving the performance. It also aids in building applications which are highly interactive and deals with multiple parallel tasks at once.
- Distributed: The architecture can be distributed by means of in-built supported functionalities like Remote Method Invocation (RMI), Socket Programming and CORBA. It enables file access by any machine on the internet and sharing of data and programs by multiple machines on the network.
- Robust: Java automatically releases the objects which are not being used, by making it more robust. It also supports exceptional exception handl
- Secure: As Java uses JVM, the applications are more secure. The concept of pointers is not present in Java, in turn encouraging security. Java supports in-built type checking at compile time and run time. This adds on the security feature in Java.
- Architecture-neutral: What makes Java architecture-neutral is the absence of implementation dependent features e.g. the size of primitive data types is fixed. Also, if the java runtime platform is made available for the hardware and software environment, the Java application can execute without the need to perform any special porting for that application.
- Python: Fig 7 summarizes the features of Python as elaborated below,
- Expressive and Easy: The most important feature which brings the language close to the developer’s heart! The language is close to English, easily readable and allows the developer to focus on end result rather than the syntax. The syntax is easy as compared to Java. The language can execute complicated functions with very few lines of code making it more expressive. Following example makes it clearer,
- Free and Open Source: With great amount of help available from the community, the language has improved over years. It is free and open source meaning it can be downloaded, changed, used and further distributed making it stronger. If the developer gets stuck, there is ample amount of help available to get him out of the soup.
- High level and Object Oriented: Similar to JAVA, the language is object oriented, meeting the requirement of modular and reusable coding approach. This helps in developing application with lesser code. Being a high-level language, it is not essential to remember the architecture and memory management making it more favourable.
- Interpreted and Portable Language: As the code is compiled in Java, it is not the same in Python. The code is interpreted line by line. This makes the language a bit slower compared to Java. However, it provides advantage of easy debugging. Same as JAVA, the language is portable on different operating systems making it system independent.
- Large Standard Library: It has larger standard libraries for bigger modules and functions. These libraries can just be imported without the necessity to understand their code/ syntax, thereby making programmers life easier.
- Dynamically Typed Language: Another unique feature of Python is that it is dynamically typed. There is no need to specify the data type of a variable while declaring it. The data-type is declared during runtime making it fuss free for the developer.
- Extensible and Embedded: This property allows the code in Python to be extended to other languages; making it way unique! The Python code can be written and compiled in other languages like C and C++. Same can be further used in Python whenever required.
When it comes to application development, Java is used for developing Android applications, Desktop GUI, Web based apps, Cloud based apps, Big data technologies etc. While Python can be used for all the listed Java applications and additionally for Game development, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Web Scraping applications, Data Science and Data Visualization etc.
Summarizing the disadvantages of both the languages, Java as taken up by Oracle which announced back in 2019 that it will be charged for business and commercial applications. Memory management in Java is costlier as large memory space is required. Java codes can be perplexing for a newcomer. The codes are lengthy and verbose. Looking forward to the disadvantages of Python, it is not favourable for mobile development. It is not used much in larger organizations due to its limitation in database access layers unlike JDBC (Java Database Connectivity) and ODBC (Open Database Connectivity). Python also has a concept called GIL (Global Interpreter Lock) which allows the execution of only one thread at a time. Python’s oversimplicity can be a curse when developers want to shift to other complex languages like Java which have strict structures and syntax. Moreover, python is also not preferred for memory comprehensive tasks.
In order to conclude which language to go for, Java or Python, here are some pointers,
- In case one is just interested in programming and does not want to dip the feet in the complex part of it, go for Python to make life easier.
- In case one is an aspiring programmer who wants to pursue a degree in computer science, go for Java as it helps in understanding all programming concepts really well. It would stand as a base for all programming languages in future.
- In case one wants to develop mobile apps, go for Java as Android needs Java and you can also switch to iOS easily if you know Java.
- If one is looking for domains like AI and ML, go for Python due to the large sets of libraries, community support and easier implementations.
- The final verdict would be selecting a language ultimately depends on the nature and the cost of the project being developed. So be wise in making a choice!